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Who should pay for police officer?

Statesville council debates whether the city or county should supply officer for alternative school; issue will be on Monday agenda.

By Dave Vieser
Special Correspondent

At a public hearing May 18 on Statesville's proposed budget, the City Council debated who should pay for a police officer at the Iredell-Statesville Schools' alternative school: the city or the county.

In North Carolina, city, town or county police are required to provide officers for middle and high schools. The school reimburses a significant portion of the officer's salary.

“It is my understanding that the alternative school is moving back to Statesville from Barium Springs in September and will be located at the Pressly Elementary School building,” said council member Paula Steele.

“Since the school would pay for 10 months of the officer's salary, we can get a full-time sworn officer who will be the school's resource officer for only about $8,900 a year, and I think that's a cost we should seriously consider putting in the new budget.”

Since the school will be back within city limits, Steele said, Statesville police would be called to assist during major incidents anyway, so having a city officer in the school would make sense.

Councilman Jap Johnson disagreed.

“Relocating the school is a major change for these kids, and the last thing they need is a different resource officer, too,” Johnson said. “From what I've heard, the sheriff's deputy currently assigned to the school is very well liked and knows about 95 percent of the students by name.”

It was unclear to council members whether the school wanted to retain the current resource officer. Mayor Costi Kutteh directed that the issue be put on the council's agenda for Monday.

No other comments were forthcoming on the $79.1 million 2009-10 budget proposal, which freezes property taxes but calls for an electricity rate increase of 8 percent. The council expects to adopt a budget June 15, to take effect July 1.

Also scheduled for consideration at Monday's meeting is a local law that would give city police the power to remove known sex offenders from certain public places, such as segments of parks and malls.

According to Police Chief Thomas Anderson, the proposed law is based on statutes that have been successfully implemented in other municipalities, and it “would give our police more tools to address this sensitive situation.”

The council also approved the demolition of the rear private garage at 646 W. Front St. The property, which houses what city officials describe as a well-preserved example of a 1920 bungalow, is in one of the city's historic preservation districts.

The garage, however, has structurally deteriorated and would not meet current building standards. Owner Josh Meeler said he plans to use the vacated space for parking.

Dave Vieser is a freelance writer.

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