COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - During an Executive Committee meeting of the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, St. Joseph County Undersheriff Jason Bingaman discusses a proposed contract between the sheriff’s department and White Pigeon Community Schools to place a deputy in the district as a school resource officer. The contract would be for five years.

County to consider school resource officer contract with White Pigeon schools

CENTREVILLE — A school resource officer from the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department could soon be placed in a local school district.

At Tuesday’s Executive Committee meeting of the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners, commissioners placed on their July 19 regular meeting agenda consideration of a five-year contract between White Pigeon Community Schools and the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department to have a deputy be a school resource officer for both schools in the district.

St. Joseph County Undersheriff Jason Bingaman said the school district reached out to the department in spring looking to add the resource officer. The measure to add a school resource officer was approved by the WPCS Board of Education at their June meeting.

The contract with the school district would be for 43 weeks during the school year beginning Aug. 15, with the officer spending the other nine weeks in the summer months assigned to the county’s Parks and Recreation department to assist with monitoring county parks.

“Working in collaboration with [Parks and Recreation Director] Jaymes MacDonald, he’s got the funding in his budget to take care of those nine weeks, and the school’s going to pick up the 43, so it only makes sense for us,” Bingaman said, adding that they will have to hire a new deputy for the department because of this, as a deputy has already been selected for the role.

Fourth District Commissioner Dan Czajkowski, whose district includes White Pigeon, asked if the village’s police department was asked to provide a school resource officer instead of the sheriff’s department. Sheriff Mark Lillywhite said White Pigeon’s police chief came to them and asked for assistance from the Sheriff’s Department for the role.

“Bill [Burogyne, White Pigeon Police Chief] came to me and asked if we wanted to do it,” Lillywhite said. “He said there was a problem, honestly, with trying to obtain a hire for that position, and he felt they just weren’t capable of doing it.”

Lillywhite said the deputy the department has chosen for the position has been doing training already in preparation for taking on the role.

Commission chair Kathy Pangle asked if other school districts have shown interest in having a school resource officer, with Bingaman saying there hasn’t been, but that there’s grant money available should they wish to do so.

“Who knows, with what’s going on in the country right now. I know the state budget and federal budget have large grant opportunities out there for schools to try and get this going,” Bingaman said. “We do have a grant that’s coming.”

First District Commissioner Jared Hoffmaster said having school resource officers available was a “good thing.”

“We want to make sure kids are protected, and there’s nobody better than our deputies to do it,” Hoffmaster said.

In other business…

  • In a special meeting of the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners prior to Tuesday’s Executive Committee meeting, the board approved a resolution to bond out a project with ABM for energy conservation improvements at the St. Joseph County Jail. The bond sum is not to exceed $4,454,080 with interest rates not exceeding 3.45 percent per annum.
  • During the Executive Committee meeting, commissioners added to a future agenda a resolution opposing a series of bills in the state legislature, House Bills 4729, 4730, 4731, and 4732, that would provide for-profit corporations, such as Zillow, which was specifically pointed out in the resolution, copies of any official records maintained at county register of deeds and treasury offices at a “significant discount” or “free of charge.”
  • St. Joseph County Commission on Aging board appointment interviews took place following the meeting, with commissioners to decide on appointments at their meeting Tuesday, July 19.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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