By Pat Maurer
After a lengthy discussion at the Surrey Township meeting Tuesday evening, the board voted unanimously, but reluctantly on the part of some members, to pay one-third of the cost to keep a liaison officer in the schools and available in the area for emergencies until the end of the school year in June.
The school liaison officer Kelly Bailey’s last day at the school was Tuesday, Undersheriff Dwayne Miedzianowski said at the meeting.
The position was one of the items cut from the school’s budget because of a $400,000 shortfall, when student enrollment at the Fourth Wednesday September count dropped substantially.
The Village of Farwell also voted to contribute one-third of the $20,622 pro-rated cost at their meeting January 6, and the Board of Education voted to put $5,700 back into this year’s budget at their meeting January 6. Both approved motions were contingent on Surrey Township’s board approval Tuesday night.
Supervisor Russ Hamilton said he had attended a meeting with representatives from the school and the village and was asked if the Surrey board would consider supporting the position, which also places an officer in the Farwell area for 40 hours each week.
During the initial discussion, Township Treasurer Esther Pitchford said she was not in favor of sharing the cost for the officer. “Don’t they (the school district) have a fund balance?” she asked. “That’s where we would have to get the money.”
She added that a representative from the school should have been at the township meeting to answer questions.
Miedzianowski outlined the benefits of having the officer based locally. “She is an experienced officer,” he said, “and would be available for priority 1 coverage. It would be someone closer and a better response time for emergencies in the Village and Township.
Trustee Joe Maxey, who was not able to attend the meeting, said in an email to the Clerk, “I am 100 percent for it. It would be a big security boost for the community.”
Fire Chief Dave Williams said, “I really believe we need an officer in the school.”
Audience member Kathy Jankowski said, although she recognized that a liaison officer is needed, “More people should go to the Board of Education meetings. They shouldn’t expect [us to do] this.”
Village Council member James Conlay, who was also at the meeting, said, “The school didn’t request this, I had the idea and put the meeting together to see if there was something we all could do.”
Village Clerk Glenna Bradbury said the township “is already over-budget, but if we don’t do this and something bad happens because an officer isn’t available, we would feel responsible.” She asked if the funds would be available for a liaison officer next year, a question that no one had the answer to.
In another matter at the meeting, the board gave their approval to Zoning Administrator Rod Williams for the purchase of two trail cams that would be used for surveillance to catch illegal dumping. The cost approved was up to $300 for the purchase.
The board also approved $580 to cover the cost to attend the annual conference for the Michigan Chapter of Storm Water and Flood Plane Management in Battle Creek in early March.
Another approved purchase was for $1,490 to buy two mobile radios for fire department vehicles as requested by Fire Chief Dave Williams.
Williams reported that the department had 421 runs for 2013, with 37 of those in Gilmore Township. He said he was looking at putting light bars on the real of the department trucks for safety reasons and was planning to purchase Epi-Pins (for allergic reactions) for the rescue vehicle. He said the pens cost $200 each. He also announced that Firefighter Keith Wale had recently retired from the department after 27 years.
Finally the board approved the payment of bills totaling $14,695.81.