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School security point of concern after tragedy

School security point of concern after tragedy
Staff Reporter
A committee is being appointed to study the security of schools in the Obion County School Sys-tem.
Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder told the county’s budget committee this morning that updated security at the schools needs to be examined.
Vastbinder said he spoke at length with Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire and Obion County Director of Schools David Huss following last month’s tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The Obion County School System currently has school resource officers at its high schools with the assistance of the sheriff’s department, as well as security measures that include video surveillance and magnetic door locks.
One of the updated security measures to be studied could be the placement of school re-source officers at each of the county’s schools, which Vastbinder said would cost roughly $200,000 if the officers were placed at the five elementary schools. He said something needs to be put in place by the new budget year.
Vastbinder said they cannot put a price on students’ safety and he said he wants to be proactive in providing adequate school security.
The five-member com-mittee to study school security will include Vast-binder, McGuire and Huss, as well as former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Roger Fisher of Rives and recently-retired Union City police chief Joe Garner, according to the county mayor.
McGuire said the com-mittee will likely report back to the full Obion County Commission at its March meeting since the panel does not meet in February. He also noted there will be a recommendation on funding.
Vastbinder said the county jail is looking at another year of positive cash flow for housing inmates, which could help with the cost of additional school resource officers. Obion County Budget Committee chairman Jerry Grady said county leaders will also look to the schools for funding assistance.
Huss said he appreciates the county commission examining the added security and he said significant upgrades have been made over the past five to six years, including the use of video and magnetic key locks. He also told the committee that no pricetag can be placed on the safety of students.
In other action during this morning’s 40-minute meeting at 9 a.m., which was opened with prayer led by county commissioner Richard Arnold, the seven-member budget committee:
• Approved a request from the Obion County Election Commission for a line item budget transfer for $2,600 to cover the costs of repairs to the election office.
• Voted to recommend to the full county commission a surety bond for highway department employee Mary Sue Chilcutt.
• Approved sending to the commission the consideration of a capital outlay note, not to exceed $200,000, for capital expenses in the General Fund. The items — already approved in the current year’s budget — include two sheriff’s department patrol cars and a truck, a courthouse maintenance project and parking lot paving.
• Approved the drafting of a proclamation to honor Chuck Ashley upon his retirement as the county’s Veterans Services officer. He will be honored at the next commission meeting on Jan. 22 at 9 a.m. at the courthouse. The meeting is postponed one day due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
McGuire said there are four applicants to succeed Ashley in the position and a committee will conduct interviews.
• Voted to send to the commission a recommendation that small plots of farm land near the sheriff’s department and the county health department be rented out to be farmed, which will generate additional revenue and result in less mowing.
• Learned the sheriff’s department is now fueling its vehicles at the county highway department, which will result in a savings to the county as well as added security at the highway department with the increased presence of patrol cars at various times.
The committee approved a motion that reimbursement for fuel from the sheriff’s department go back to the highway department for fuel costs.
• Voted to send the county highway map to the commission for approval. There are no new roads this year.
• Approved placing several appointments on the full commission’s agenda. They include appointments to the agricultural, budget and courthouse committees and the Solid Waste Regional Planning Board, as well as the appointment of the county historian.
The committee approved a recommendation from McGuire for the commission to consider increasing the budget committee from seven members to eight members for a trial period of a year and to make any associated funding appropriations. He said he believes the county commission chairman should be a standing member of the budget committee, which will allow for another commissioner from the chairman’s district to also have an opportunity to serve. There would be one commissioner from each of the seven districts, plus the commission chairman.
• Voted to place several notary public applications on the commission’s agenda. Published in The Messenger 1.7.13

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