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Temporary fix introduced for Little Milligan SRO vacancy

John Thompson • Updated Apr 20, 2017 at 9:26 PM

 ELIZABETHTON — A recent conflict in the Carter County Commission that centered around the lack of a school resource officer for Little Milligan Elementary School was temporarily fixed during Thursday’s meeting of the Carter County School Board.

“This is a good resolution on a temporary basis,” Director of Schools Kevin Ward told the board as he invited Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford to step forward and explain the plan to place an SRO at Little Milligan, the most remote school in the county. There are currently 14 officers assigned to the 15 county schools.

Lunceford said the plan’s first stepwould be to place other resource officers from other schools at Little Milligan.

The problem is made tougher because Lunceford said there are already two school resource officers who are not working. One, Deputy Tonya Range is recovering from injuries suffered when her patrol car slid on an icy spot on U.S. Highway 19E in Hampton and crashed several weeks ago.

Lunceford said he could not just assign someone to serve as a school resource officer. He said an SRO must be certified by the Tennessee Peace Officers Standards Training Commission. The officer must also attend a School Resource Officer's course.

Lunceford said his department has been working on the problem and a longer range fix is being worked out. That would involve a grant from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services of the Department of Justice.

That grant would allow the hiring and equipping of one school resource officer, with 75 percent of the cost coming from the federal government and 25 percent coming from the county. The grant would be for three years, before the county would have to assume 100 percent of the cost.

With the grant, the sheriff's department would have a resource officer for each school.

County Commissioner Larry "Doc" Miller has spoken out strongly about the lack of a school resource officer for Little Milligan. On Monday, he made a motion in the County Commission meeting to stop funding for the sheriff's department and the school department until funds were dedicated to a school resource officer for Little Milligan. His motion was defeated by a vote of 21-2.

During Thursday's school board meeting, Lunceford said Carter County's school resource officer program far exceeded others in the region. Compared to Carter County's 14 officers, he said Sullivan County has only four, Washington County has five, Unicoi County has one and Johnson County has one.

On another personnel issue, Ward said the salary survey the department recently commissioned has been completed with a recommendation that would cost $450,000 to implement. He said that was not possible, but he said the department would begin with smaller amounts.

Two parcels of land owned by the school board were also discussed.

The board voted unanimously to approve the transfer of 1.2 acres of land to the County Commission, which would allow the Parks and Recreation Committee to build an access point for the Doe River and a community park for the people of Hampton,

The property, which includes frontage on the Doe River, had once been part of the Hampton High School campus. It was severed from the rest of the campus when U.S. 19E was built through town. The board's attorney, John Banks, said the property was of little value to the school system because it lies in the flood plain and because it was not safe to have students cross the busy highway to get to it.

The board also approved plans to sell a 7-acre parcel that is adjacent to the Watauga Industrial Park. The land had previously been considered for a middle school in Stoney Creek.

Travis Royston of Royston Auction Co. provided plats of the property on which he proposed to split the property into three parts for an auction. He said the three tracts were 1.5 acres; 2.3 acres; and 3 acres. He told the board the next step is to conduct soil tests.

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