MILTON — The possibility of a second school resource officer (SRO) being added in the Milton Area School District moved one step closer to becoming a reality during Wednesday’s Milton Borough Council meeting.
Council authorized Borough Manager Jess Novinger to negotiate a new SRO contract with the school district, including the possibility of adding a second SRO to the program.
During her report to council, Novinger said the borough’s current SRO contract with the district expires June 30. Recently, she received a letter from the district stating it has attained funding through a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency grant to provide for a second SRO for the 2020-2021 school year.
Novinger said the grant will cover all fees associated with the position, with the exception of liability insurance, worker’s compensation and the costs of maintaining an SRO police vehicle.
Following the meeting, Milton Police Department Chief Curt Zettlemoyer said the school district and borough have been partnering together on the SRO program since 2000.
Zettlemoyer said the school district covers all costs associated with the current SRO, with the exception of liability insurance, worker’s compensation and a police vehicle.
High School Principal Andrew Rantz and Assistant Principal Mike Bergey spoke during the meeting on the value of the SRO program.
This school year alone, Rantz said SRO Dennis Derr has had extensive involvement in 53 disciplinary referrals, 93 Safe to Say hotline tips and 105 Children and Youth Services referrals.
Bergey said Derr also responds when mental health issues arise for students during the school day.
In addition, Bergey said Derr has developed a positive rapport with the student body. Most students greet him when walking through the hall, and he knows most of the high school students by name.
Often times, Bergey said students will be speaking with Derr in his office on a variety of topics.
“That’s extremely, extremely important,” Bergey said, of Derr’s rapport with the student body. “A huge part of what we do is try to be proactive with our students.”
Bergey said the district would like the SRO to spend more time developing relationships with elementary students. However, 90% of his time is spent in the high school due to the workload.
In addition to assisting with Derr’s workload, Bergey said the addition of a second SRO will allow the officers to spend more time in the elementary and middle schools.
“We truly believe a proactive approach to our SRO position would be extremely beneficial,” Bergey said.
Novinger directed council members to comprise a list of questions they have about the SRO program so the school can respond as the two sides negotiate a new contract.
In addition to Rantz and Bergey, Superintendent Dr. Cathy Keegan, Director of Elementary Education Dr. Daphne Kirkpatrick, Director of Secondary Education Dr. Brian Ulmer, Special Education Director Catherine Girton, Food Services Director Sharon Adami, and board members Christine Rantz, Kevin Fry and Ken Snyder attend the meeting.
Mayor Ed Nelson thanked those from the district for attending.
In total, the school district will be receiving $458,238 in PCCD grants.
In addition to funding a second SRO, Girton previously said $35,000 of the funding will be used to purchase digital forensic software to be used by the SRO and the Milton Police Department.
It was previously announced the grant money will also be used by the district to upgrade security equipment, purchase protective bollards and for security-related technology upgrades.
In other business on Wednesday, borough council authorized Novinger to apply for a $73,000 902 Recycling Grant from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
If approved, Novinger said the borough will be required to provide a 10% match to the grant. The funding will be used to purchase two new dump containers and two new roll-off containers for the borough’s recycling center as well as a new chipper.
Council gave Dane Neilson, a Milton Area High School junior, approval to build eight new benches for the Milton Community Pool for his Eagle Service Project. The benches are expected to be completed by May.
Following a 25-minute executive session, council approved advertising a series of ordinance revisions which Finance Committee Chair Linda Meckley explained following the meeting will restructure the pension plan for administrative personnel. Meckley said the changes are designed to encourage employee longevity and result in cost savings for the borough.
Council members Jamie Walker, Jeff Robol and Joe Moralez were absent from the meeting.