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Plum officials back plan for second school officer

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Plans are moving forward to create a second resource officer position in the Plum School District.

Plum Manager Michael Thomas said after Monday night's council meeting that he and Superintendent Timothy Glasspool are working on a grant application in an attempt to get funding for the position which could be active by January.

Thomas said a new round of COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grants recently was announced by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“It (the grant money) is specifically for school resource officers,” Thomas said.

The grant money initially covers the full cost of the resource officer. The percentage of grant money decreases over the next few years with the municipality and/or school district ultimately picking up the full cost of the position.

Plum's first school resource position created in 2002 was was funded through the COPS program. Mark Kost, a Plum police officer for 24 years, has served as the district's resource officer for 12 years.

The Plum School District in the 2014-15 school year is set to pay 75 percent of Kost's salary and benefits with the borough picking up 25 percent.

Kost's salary and benefits in 2014 are $146,762, Thomas has said.

Kost is based at the high school and handles duties at the other schools including DARE instruction in the five elementary schools.

Discussion about a second resource officer began last month in the aftermath of the mass stabbing incident at nearby Franklin Regional High School where 20 students and a security guard were injured on April 9.

Sophomore Alex Hribal, 16, has been charged as an adult in connection with the attack. Hribal's preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 4.

Glasspool proposes the second resource officer be stationed at the Oblock Junior High School campus that, beginning in the 2015-16 school year, will be home to the new Holiday Park Elementary School.

Council members agree with Glasspool's idea.

“How can you not be concerned after what happened at Franklin Regional?” asked Councilman Dave Vento during Monday night's work session.

Vento said the new resource officer, if in place by January, would have a chance to get to know junior high students before the new school on the campus opens in the fall.

Thomas plans to discuss possible candidates for the job with Plum police Chief Jeffrey Armstrong.

The manager said the new resource officer most likely would be an existing borough officer rather than a new hire.

“We want someone who knows Plum,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the borough is planning to hire two to three officers this year. Written testing is scheduled for June.

“Once the hiring process starts, we will see who wants to be the SRO, and we will get them trained,” Vento said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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