Carter Co. sheriff says he’s hoping grant could put officers in schools

John Thompson • Feb 5, 2013 at 10:04 AM

ELIZABETHTON — Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes said the growing concern over security in the state’s schools could lead to a sharp increase in the number of school resource officers assigned to the schools.

Mathes discussed the matter Monday night during a meeting of the Law Enforcement Committee of the Carter County Commission.

The sheriff said he and four other sheriffs had an opportunity to meet with Gov. Bill Haslam last week about school security. He said the idea of arming teachers and principals appears to be losing ground, but the idea of placing more school resource officers in schools is popular.

“I think there could be a COPS-style grant to help fund the program for 3-5 years,” Mathes said.

In an unrelated meeting, interim Director of Schools Kevin Ward also discussed the governor’s proposed budget and the $34 million earmarked for capital projects. While personnel costs are not normally included in capital projects expenditures, Ward said the state has emphasized that for districts seeking to fund more school resource officers, this would be a good source of funding.

Ward said Carter County’s share of the capital projects funding would be $262,000.

The governor’s budget was also good news for teachers, with a 1.5 percent increase in the salary improvement component of the Basic Education Program. Ward said that while these funds must be tied to pay, the salary improvement is not intended to mandate an across-the-board 1.5 percent pay increase. The state will work to encourage effective use of the funding to advance district goals and objectives.

In other matters in the Law Enforcement Committee, Mathes said new health care provider for the jail, Southern Health Partners, has been working well. “I am extremely pleased with them,” Mathes said.

The committee was also given an update on the county’s Civil Service Board by its chairman, John D. Snyder. The board gets by on an annual fee from the county of $950. Snyder told the committee that the sheriff’s office provides administrative support for the board to enable it to meet its needs and obligations. He said the sheriff’s secretary provides assistance and the department helps with the board’s mail expenses.

Snyder said he did not come to the meeting to ask for more funds but to inform the committee of the state laws on the operation of the board.

The committee agreed to find a suitable location in the old jail for the board to store records and conduct its routine business.

Richard Lewis, the local chapter president of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, approached the committee as it was sitting as the Building and Grounds Committee to ask for a location on the exterior of the courthouse where a bronze plaque could be hung in recognition of all victims who lost their lives because of crime. He said the chapter is also working on acquiring a small bench and will plant a small garden.

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