Columbiana City Council votes to fund school resource officer

STEPHANIE BRUMFIELD / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – The Columbiana City Council unanimously approved the hiring of a new school resource officer during its July 16 meeting.

Mayor Stancil Handley presented the council with a contract between the city of Columbiana, the Shelby County Commission and the Shelby County Board of Education.

Handley said the four-year contract specified the payments each entity will provide toward the salary of the new school resource officer. The Shelby County Commission will provide $24,500 each year for four years, while the Shelby County Board of Education will provide $14,000 each year for four years.

Columbiana Police Chief Lamar Vick said this amount would cover the salary for the new officer, but not the officer’s benefits, gear or car. Vick said he estimated the city would still have to pay about $15,000-$18,000 per year to fund the new position.

The new officer, who would be hired at an entry-level salary, would join the city police force, while a current Columbiana police officer would begin serving in the schools. That officer would rotate between all schools within Columbiana city limits, Vick said.

Handley said the SCBOE plans to give the city an additional lump sum of $14,000 for work the city already has done. In the past, the Columbiana Police Department had its officers visit the schools as often as possible during normal working hours, though officers were not specifically assigned to the schools, Vick said.

Vick agreed with the council that hiring a school resource officer would increase police presence, even if there is not a dedicated officer for each school.

“It’s not a 100 percent foolproof plan, but it does put someone within two minutes of every school,” Handley said.

Councilman Leslie Whiting agreed that increased police presence “makes a difference.”

“It changes the thought,” Whiting said. “If you’re driving down the road, I don’t care if you are going the speed limit, you hit your breaks when you see a police officer.”

The council suspended its normal operations to vote on the issue, citing the short amount of time before the start of school.

“School starts in four weeks,” Handley said at the beginning of the discussion. “We’ve got to do something.”