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A unanimous decision resulting from the May 22 Buena Vista Board of Trustees session to proceed with an intergovernmental agreement between the town and Buena Vista School District will enable them to share the cost of adding a school resource officer to the Buena Vista school system. They hope to have an officer trained and in place in time for the 2018-2019 school year.

“We weren’t out there seeking a school resource officer, but in the culture we’re living in now, we said, ‘What are we going to do to address student safety?'” said school Superintendent Lisa Yates. “The sad reality is we can’t protect our kids all the time, but we want to make the effort we can. This is another set of eyes, not just on the perimeter, which will be good, but school violence can happen from within our own school walls, creating the unthinkable.”

The town’s share of the start-up costs will total around $84,000, which will include training and equipment, including a police car for the SRO. The town is paying for the equipment and will own it. Police Chief Jimmy Tidwell said the state pays for the 10-day training, while the local police department pays a per diem for the officer to attend the training in Denver.

Town Administrator Phillip Puckett said that he, Yates and Tidwell held early discussions about the intergovernmental agreement and consulted town attorney Jeff Parker on the mutually agreeable framework. The three presented it to the Buena Vista School Board May 14, where it was well received. The town established a renewable contract time frame that will technically run June 1, 2018, to June 1, 2019.

The school’s contribution for year one will be $33,000, with the expectation the city will hire during the summer so the officer can complete the state SRO training and be in place for the beginning of the school year.

Asked how the officer’s time would be divided, Tidwell said the SRO would have a presence in each school across the district locations.

“The benefit here is during peak times, our summer tourist season and when school is out, we’ll have the officer to help with our growing calls in town. For the first four months of this year, the police department had 551 more calls for service compared to the prior year. This is a good partnership because we can split the cost, and it helps us ease into additional staffing.”

Yates said another benefit of the new position is to cover school event time frames. “Thankfully we have many of the local police officers in our buildings anyway, at least once a week – not because we’re calling them, they’re making it part of their routine, and we so appreciate that. But there are times when we need an officer in the evening for events, not just during the daytime, and this can help us with that.”

Trustee Cindy Swisher asked how the officer’s time would be split among the district schools.

“We don’t now what the equation is yet among the schools, or between the school district and town,” said Puckett. “The office will be keeping a time card. I see this as a community need. Do we split it 60/40, or 50/50? We don’t know yet. This is a nationwide concern and certainly something that our community cares about, so it makes sense right now to split it 50/50.”

“The reality is schools are getting into a lot of the social services and it’s expensive to expand education into social services. Do we bring on a case worker? Do we look at a school psychologist?” said Yates. “What made this decision easier for me, once I began talking with Chief (Tidwell) and Phillip, hearing that the calls have gone up, this is a way for us to help bring in another officer to help. A police officer can help build positive relationships between students and the police, and the town.”

“We’ve really needed this,” said Tidwell. “No school in the country can say we’re 100-percent safe. But the school administration and school board really stepped up to the plate last week to fund this, and we all agree, this is the right move.”