04-27-2017 Watervliet City Commission approves School Resource Officer agreement; Mayor and Twp. Sup

Watervliet City Commission approves School Resource Officer agreement; Mayor and Twp. Supervisor clash over terms

By Annette Christie

The Watervliet City Commission finally approved the three-party agreement for the purpose of providing a School Resource Officer, but not before lengthy and somewhat heated conversation that included Watervliet Charter Township Supervisor Dan Hutchins at their regular meeting held Tuesday, April 25, 2017.

City Manager Michael Uskiewicz asked for permission to sign the agreement after working out the details of the contract with the police chief, the township and the school system as directed by the city commission. He reminded them prior to the beginning of the discussion that they have already approved the concept and the funding and that this was simply the final piece needed to put the plan into motion that has been a long time coming.

It was in January that the city promised $20,000 toward the project that is being financially shared with the school for $30,000 and the township for $20,000.

It was Watervliet City Mayor Dave Brinker that invited Hutchins into the discussion and to explain his take on the agreement. Brinker asked Hutchins, “I need to ask you the question, where do you stand as to what was originally put forth?” Hutchins said that as he understood it, the city and the school didn’t have a problem with the original agreement and that it was the township that wanted more oversight. Hutchins said that he felt that with the hiring of a city manager the oversight would be there now for the program, but then in addressing Brinker stated, “You have someone in here now and if you’re not going to let the city manager do his job I don’t know what the hell you are going to do.” Hutchins said that he attended the meeting with the city manager, the chief, and the school to work out the final areas of concern with the agreement, and they did that. He said the mayor was invited to come but did not. “I don’t understand how we have come to this. You don’t like that the city manager, the superintendent, and I put this together. It has become political and I don’t like it,” Hutchins said.

Brinker asked Hutchins if he understood that the agreement puts the city in charge of this program. Hutchins responded, “I think I can work with the city manager or the superintendent to resolve any issues we may have.” Hutchins said this will be a great deal for the community if people will see it through. “The issue sits in this room, not in the community,” Hutchins said.

Commissioner Larry Hehl asked about the budget and the impact this would have on this year’s and next year’s budgets. Uskiewicz noted that the 2016 budget will not be affected and that the 2017 budget is not going to be introduced until May. He reminded the commissioners once again that back in January they committed the $20,000. Hehl insisted that they needed to get a look at the budget and the numbers going in and numbers going out.

Commissioner Bill Whitney was concerned that funding for the budget included training and if the School Resource Officer needed training that he gets it. Chief Tim Sutherland confirmed that training expenses were accounted for in the budget. Hutchins added that if the actual costs after the first year went over the original estimates that they could talk about it. “You have never heard the township say no to a good program,” Hutchins said.

There seemed to be some differing opinions over the cost to provide the program with Brinker stating that he believed the program can run for $70,000 but Chief Sutherland thinking that it could be done for a little less. Either way all parties have committed up to the $70,000 and Uskiewicz confirmed that the funds will all be kept separate and used only for expenses within the program itself. It was indicated that they would look at it, the budget, after the first year. Brinker questioned whether it was necessary to hire a full-time person when they would only be utilized at the school during the school year, leaving the summer open. Sutherland stated, “I think the most important thing for this program to be successful is to have a high quality, full-time person. I would like someone long term, that the kids will get to know and to help them trust the police,” adding, “I envision the kids in kindergarten growing up with this officer and respecting the officer with a trust so they can turn to them in the junior high years when things are harder.” Sutherland said if the city picks them up in the summer, that is the busiest time, and that position could help fill in for vacations, while helping to eliminate any overtime. Brinker said then that he would like to back up just a bit and wait to approve the agreement. Uskiewicz added, “I do believe you can do it for the $70,000. You already approved this program; you are just approving the contract. There are some time issues involved so that we can get an officer in place for the next school year.”

Commissioner Whitney made the motion to approve the agreement, with Commissioner Muth supporting the motion. As expected, the vote was not unanimous with Hehl and Brinker voting no, however the motion carried authorizing Uskiewicz to move forward with the School Resource Officer agreement.

Baseline Environmental Assessment

Uskiewicz presented a quote of $2,000 for a Baseline Environmental Assessment on the recently conveyed property known as the paper mill property.