WELLSBURG — The acting Brooke County sheriff voiced opposition to the use of security guards, in place of resource officers at Tuesday’s Brooke County Commission meeting.
Scott Adams — who last week was appointed interim sheriff by the commission and previously served as chief sheriff’s deputy — disputed comments by Brooke County Superintendent Jeffrey Crook that security guards hired by the school board can ensure the same level of safety for students and staff as sheriff’s deputies serving as resource officers.
“To say that they (schools) are safe is absolutely false,” Adams said.
Adams said resource officers are trained to be the first to respond in the event of an active shooter incident and have intervened in physical altercations between students and sometimes prevented them after hearing a fight was to occur after school.
He added the officers have built a rapport with students, particularly those who are at risk of dropping out.
Adams said school officials were dishonest when they said each school would be served by a resource officer while encouraging voters to pass the school district’s five-year operating levy.
Funding for the six officers, including five deputies and one Wellsburg police officer, has been a point of contention between the commission and school board for several months.
Crook and other school officials contend they’ve been advised by state authorities not to pay for any services not rendered because schools have been closed by the pandemic.
In response, the board sought a new contract calling for the officers’ pay to be pro-rated according to time spent in the schools while they were open.
The commissioners have countered officers were hired to serve the schools because the board requested them. They said if they had the funds, paying for them would amount to double taxation for taxpayers because they were to be included in the levy.
Adams said if nothing changes, it’s very likely he will have to lay off two officers in October.
The commissioners have said the cost for the five deputies is about $450,000.
Recently the board asked the commission to consider paying about $240,000 for the officers’ benefits, a proposal the commissioners have turned down.
The commissioners have suggested in the event schools are closed again, the officers can perform tasks for the school district, such as delivering school meals and performing welfare checks. Some were performed by the officers after schools were closed in March.
But school officials argued such tasks can be performed by school staff.
Called for comment, Crook said, “We don’t want to talk about it anymore until they are serious about coming to the table.”
Crook said he would tell the commissioners, “If you really want the students to be safe, come to the table with something.”
In response to Adams’ comments, he said, “He’s not the only one frustrated right now. I am, too.”
Stephanie Zimmer, spokesperson for the school district, said security guards from Garretson Security of Wellsburg have been hired at a cost of $115,000 for 180 days. She said the guards’ employment will be from week to week at this time.
Zimmer said the guards can be paid from a line item in the levy for health, safety and security enhancements.
It calls for $1,434,355 to be used for “health, safety and security enhancements, including, but not limited to, the provision before and after care costs, new playground and Wellness Center equipment, engagement of Resource Officers and additional security for each of the schools located in Brooke County, the purchase and/or rental of uniforms (and related equipment and/or costs) for service personnel, capital improvements, renovations and repair of facilities for the health, safety and security of students, staff and guests and to comply with fire marshal, health, Americans with Disabilities Act, EPA and OSHA standards.”
Earlier this year the discovery of a $3.2 million shortfall in the levy led the board to cut stipends promised to all non-board staff and more than 40 teachers and service personnel.
(Scott can be contacted at [email protected])