After a drawn out battle over his 2018 budget and denied requests for more staffing, Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson went before the board of commissioners last week with a request for three additional school resource officers.
“In light of the recent school shootings...on March 8 the school system had a public safety event, or basically a school safety event, inquiring or asking, soliciting ideas, thoughts on how we can improve our school safety,” Johnson said. “Even prior to that, after...the mass shooting in Florida, we met with (Superintendent Damon Gibbs) on how we could improve safety in our schools. The general consensus...is they do desire additional school resource officers on staff. We support that.”
The school board is willing to fund 50 percent of the cost of two of those positions, Johnson said, as well as for traffic direction when school is starting and when it is let out.
There are currently five SROs allocated to the seven schools. Riverview Elementary, Dawson County Middle School and Black’s Mill Elementary alternately share resource officers.
Johnson said he asked for three positions instead of two because the officers are often called away from their schools to assist elsewhere, and if they are out sick or in training, there is no one to cover for them.
Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said that because the school system operates on a different budget schedule, it would be July before Gibbs would bring the request for funding the two positions before his board.
The cost to the county would be $58,408 per position, Johnson said.
Johnson also asked for funds to pay off-duty officers to handle traffic in the morning and afternoons, instead of pulling school resource officers from the schools.
That would cost around $60,000 annually.
“I would like for some member of this board to sit with you and maybe Dr. Gibbs or a member of his board to discuss this traffic detail...so we have more of an understanding of how that’s going to work,” Thurmond said.
Thurmond also asked for financial documentation from the sheriff on how much the request would cost, as he said the commission was not provided with that information prior to the meeting.
The commissioners voiced their support of the initiative, many of them stating that they have children or grandchildren in the school system and understand the fears that parents have.
“The safety of our children as well as all of our citizens is a priority of this board,” Thurmond said.
First annual “Sheriff’s Office Ride for Relay” proposed
Deputy Sheriff Greg Rowan also went before the board on Thursday to request the use of county roads for an event in April.
The sheriff’s office is proposing a motorcycle ride through the county to raise money for Relay for Life.
The event is proposed from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. April 14.
The route, if approved, would take riders on a 51-mile tour of the county, beginning and ending at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame and looping up around Amicalola Falls.