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Jeannette officials work on school resource officer contract

Renatta Signorini
| Tuesday, April 28, 2015, 11:15 p.m.

Jeannette city and school district officials are finalizing the details of putting a school resource officer to work.

Police Chief Shannon Binda said the role likely will be filled by an officer already on the force and another officer will be added to the 11-member department.

Jeannette City School District Superintendent Matthew Hutcheson said the move is a “proactive” approach.

“This year, we've had more of a police presence, not for a fear factor, but for a relationship-building opportunity with our students,” Hutcheson said.

Both the district and city are planning for a five-year contract. Though the resource officer will begin working in the district in the fall, city officials have discussed hiring an additional officer sooner.

Hutcheson said the district is reserving $48,000 in its 2015-16 budget to pay for 180 days of the resource officer's time. The city's portion for the year will be $37,500 for benefits and salary, including $14,000 for benefits during the school year, Binda said.

Both men said they plan to seek grant funding to help pay the costs.

The final agreement has not been approved by city council or the school board. Solicitors for both boards are finalizing details.

Cpl. Chris Mason likely will fill the role of school resource officer, Binda said. Mason earned $77,000 in 2014, but the city will charge the school district a lower rate that the new officer would make, he said.

Binda hopes to move quickly so the city can capitalize on what he called “huge overtime savings” that an added officer can provide during vacation season.

“It'll put an extra man out during the busiest time of the year,” he said.

Solicitor Scott Avolio said adding another officer will allow for better management of the department's overtime costs during the summer, resulting in “almost a wash.”

“From a budget standpoint, it works,” he said. “It's being done in a way that allows the city to have some subsidy for those costs.”

The resource officer will have an office in the district and a presence in all school buildings to increase safety and interaction with students, Hutcheson and Binda said.

The resource officer will have an opportunity to connect with students in the classroom, which Binda hopes will help students understand the role of law enforcement. The position also adds a safety measure and a quick response time in the event of an incident or emergency, Binda said.

City council could vote to hire the new officer in May, Avolio said.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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