County talks Granada SRO

FAIRMONT — The Martin County Commissioners met on Tuesday to discuss hiring a shared deputy that will work as Granada-Huntley-East Chain’s school resource officer.

The personnel committee had met last week and gave a proposal on a shared cost and came up with a recommendation of a 66/34 split between the school district and county. The number is based on the amount and length of school days in a year. The committee recommended going forward with the split.

“We felt like this is a fair split for the school district and citizens of Martin County,” said Kathy Smith.

As County Coordinator Scott Higgins pointed out, they would not be using an existing officer but would need to hire a new one to fill the position.

The total cost of a full-time deputy would be around $108,000 which will include salary, insurance costs, training, uniforms and other expenses. 34 percent, which is what the county would be responsible for, comes out to be about $36,000.

The priority of the officer would be to work as the SRO in Granada, but during the summer months they would have different assignments.

Some commissioners said they would like to see the county’s contributing number be a little higher.

“Even though 66 percent of the time they’ll be in the school, to me, as the leading law enforcement agency in Martin County, we have a job to protect every single citizen. It doesn’t matter if they’re at home, work, play or school. So they’ll be working for our constituents every day no matter where they are,” said Dan Schmidtke.

A concern is that other districts would expect the same kind of services in their building. Another concern is that taxpayers wouldn’t want to pay for a SRO in Granada.

“The one thing we need to consider is that probably within the next couple weeks, I truly believe the State legislature will do something about this because it’s high on everybody’s priority. They’re going to throw some money someplace for this and that will change everything,” pointed out Elliot Belgard.

The board wanted to make a decision in order to keep the process moving. If it’s decided to hire someone, they would need to do special training in order to be a SRO and be ready to start at the beginning of next school year.

GHEC superintendent, Mandy Fletcher, was present and said, “We feel strongly that this is a good investment for the future,” adding, “the best investment we can have is in our kids in hopes that they become very productive, well-rounded, well-educated citizens and stay in this area.”

Fletcher said that this has to be an inter-agency approach and that she feels like it would benefit both agencies. While Fletcher said she’s very appreciative of the Sheriff’s office, if she had a local police department, she would have approached them first.

“I do think that being as our first go-to agency, that splitting the cost a little more 50/50 would be seen as a benefit to both GHEC and the citizens of Martin County,” Fletcher said, saying it would be an investment down the road.

The board voted to support the hiring of an officer with a 66/34 split, as per the recommendation of the personnel committee. Fletcher will now take the proposal back to the GHEC school board to see what they will do with the offer.

In other action, the board approved the hire of:

q a full-time patrol deputy, Chad Schlichte, who currently works as a policer officer in St. James.

q a part-time Communications Officer, Taylor Hilgendorf.