Plan for new police officer falls through
By Lynn R. Parks
Beginning with its new fiscal year, the town of Bridgeville will boost the size of its police force. Police chief Alan Parsons is currently interviewing candidates for the force's fourth full-time police officer, who will start work July 1.
But Joseph Conaway, president of the town council, is disappointed that the town is not also looking for a fifth police officer.
Conaway said that on May 7, he and Parsons met with Woodbridge School District superintendent Kevin Carson to discuss applying for a $125,000 federal grant through the Cops in School program. The town was interested in hiring a police officer who, during the school year, would be in the Early Childhood Education Center, Bridgeville, which starting in September will house kindergarten and first grade. During the summer, the officer would assume regular police officer duties.
"We had even talked with the police chief in Greenwood and he had no problem with the officer being in the elementary school in Greenwood," Conaway said.
Conaway said that all at the May 7 meeting were in agreement that the town should apply for the three-year grant. But several days later, when Parsons approached Carson to sign the necessary papers, Carson indicated that he needed school board approval to pursue the grant. Such approval was not forthcoming and the application deadline passed.
"Nothing was said [at the meeting] about school board approval," Conaway said. "If we had been told at the meeting that school board approval was necessary it would have saved Chief Parsons a lot of time and energy. And we would not have had our hopes up.
"I hope it was an oversight on the superintendent's part," he added. "I have to assume that his mind was elsewhere and that he didn't recall that he had to have board approval."
But Carson said that at the May 7 meeting, no mention was made of any expenditure required of the district. When he read the application given to him by Parsons, he learned that at the end of the three-year grant the district would be required to pay "$28,000 and some change," he said, to continue the position.
"There was a requirement for contribution of local district dollars," he said. "At the initial meeting there was no comment about a local contribution."
Carson said that he informed the town that because of the money involved, he had to take the proposal before the board. At its June 5 meeting, the school board voted not to participate in the program.
"It is unfortunate," Carson said. "Anytime you bring additional resources into the school it is a good thing. But we are cutting programs. We are cutting teams and school activities. Our tax rate has not changed in the last 15 years and unfortunately, we have to make some tough choices."
A referendum on a current expense tax hike was turned down in 1998. On May 8, voters turned down another current expenditure tax hike request.
Carson said that he is still interested in pursuing the Cops in School program with the town. "I am more than willing to work with them," he added. "But we simply don't have the resources now."
The district already has a school resource officer, paid for by a combination of state grants. In addition to spending time in the high school, the officer heads up the school's DARE program, a drug abuse prevention program for fifth graders.
Police chief Parsons refused comment.