Burrell School District extends contract with Lower Burrell police
Burrell School District students will continue to have a familiar face as their school resource officer for at least another three years.
School board members agreed Tuesday to keep Lower Burrell Detective John Marhefka as the resource officer, extending the district’s contract with Lower Burrell through June 30, 2022.
The school board was weighing whether to extend its contract with the city or hire other law enforcement personnel at perhaps a lower cost.
While Burrell has had a resource officer for a number of years, other school districts are using different combinations of law enforcement officers for daily security at schools. Burrell Superintendent Shannon Wagner conducted an informal survey of local school districts and found a split between those that contracted with their local police departments and those that hired their own officers.
The district pays roughly $87,700 per year to keep Marhefka in the schools under its contract with the city.
At the end of the day, school board members decided to continue having Lower Burrell police provide the resource officer.
Although Wagner presented the board with other possibilities, “collectively, we realize we have a good thing going with the City of Lower Burrell Police,” school board President Tricia Shank said, referring to Marhefka’s presence in the schools and also the daily patrols provided by the department at the district’s schools.
City police also opened a small office in Bon Air Elementary for even more police presence, all without additional charges to the district.
Lower Burrell Police Chief Tim Weitzel, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said he was glad the school board opted to renew its contract with the city.
Had the decision gone the other way, Weitzel said his department would have worked with any new officer hired by the school district. However, it would have likely entailed extra time and effort to establish a working relationship between a new school officer and his department.
Weitzel said there are a number of advantages of using city police in the Burrell district, including familiarity with the schools where city police conduct training such as shooter training drills.
Lower Burrell police offer special value to the district, Weitzel said.
“We don’t do just the minimum training,” he said.
Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .