Funding of the school resource officers was discussed by the Christiansburg Town Council in a regular meeting Tuesday, April 25, following an announcement of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors decision to reduce county financial support to the officers.
During citizen comments, one individual addressed the council in support of school resource officers (SROs) and the need to fully fund these positions. Carrie Bradshaw, Administrative Assistant at Falling Branch Elementary School, spoke of the tremendous work that SROs provide to the students, staff, and teachers.
“Our police officers have always had the highest professionalism,” said Bradshaw. “Our hats are off to the Christiansburg Police department. They’ve done a fantastic job. Our officers in the town routinely come through to help; they come to do walkthroughs, they do lockdown drills with us, they show our students the K9 operation, they monitor traffic coming off the interstate.”
Bradshaw explained how their resource officer at Falling Branch Elementary School, Adam Horn, is shared with multiple schools, specifically the two other elementary schools in Christiansburg, but sometimes the officer covers other town schools as well.
Mayor Mike Barber opened the discussion concerning school resource officer staffing by stating, “We have not been presented with anything from the county. I know they discussed this seven days ago and came up with a plan. They have not reached out to me, and I have not reached out to them.
“I am under the assumption that the town of Christiansburg is going to save some money and they are going to fund us those three officers, $203,000,” Barber continued.
Council member Timothy Wilson made a motion to table the SRO discussion until hearing more from the county on their proposal. Tanya Hockett, council member, suggested arranging a meeting with the Board of Supervisors to hear more details about plans to provide the needed SRO positions in schools.
“We have asked them when this first came up; they had no interest in a joint meeting,” said Barber.
“As I understand, they would be agreeable as council is agreeable,” Town Manager Randy Wingfield responded.
Council member Henry Showalter suggested a meeting of the Christiansburg Town Council and the Board of Supervisors could implement the use of a moderator, if necessary, but with the requirement that all elected officials be present. Additionally, Showalter suggested that other items of concern, outside of the current issue with SROs, be included in a joint-meeting agenda.
“It is going to be in a neutral place, and everybody has to be there,” said Showalter.
“I mean this whole thing, it’s kind of a sore subject,” said Barber. “Do I expect them to pay? Hell no.” Barber said.
He went on to say the meeting would be arranged outside of either organization’s regular meeting times and he would reach out to the board for a time and place.
“With us making a decision to pull the SROs out on June 1st, I don’t want to rush this discussion, but that is coming up quickly,” Hockett added.
The council consented in agreement to reach out to the board for a meeting. Barber and Wingfield will suggest a meeting with the requirement of all members being in attendance. Wingfield made the additional suggestion of a moderator for the meeting.
The meeting’s agenda also included discussion of the process of appointing a new police chief due to the announced August 31, 2023 retirement of current Police Chief Mark Sisson. The council discussed the possibility of hiring a firm to handle applicants for the position in addition to publicly advertising, as had been done in the past.
“I am not a big proponent of trying to get a personnel firm involved in this; I think we can probably advertise it,” Barber said in addressing the council. “I think I would like to consider, from a lot of standpoints, to get your thoughts on filling this job from within. Mark has been a police chief for 15 years and has created quite a facility, quite a department.”
“This discussion, as far as the processes and advertisement has to be a public discussion. If you want to have discussion of any specific candidates, you can do this as a closed meeting if you like,” Wingfield explained.
Wingfield went on to ask the council what specific processes the council would like to conduct, including options of hiring a firm to manage the personnel search, establishing a committee, and advertising.
Board member Timothy Wilson suggested the establishment of a subcommittee in the search for a new police chief, versus the seven council members participating in the full process. Barber agreed a committee could be the route for reviewing the candidates, but that advertising would be the priority at this point.
In another item on the agenda, Shelor Motor Mile has submitted a bid for naming rights of the Christiansburg Huckleberry Park Diamond in the amount of $500,000. Pursuant to a process of legal review of the bid, the naming of the park will be tabled until future notice.
Wingfield was also recognized during the meeting by Mayor Barber and council for 25 years of service with the town of Christiansburg.
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