To ensure that each school in Unicoi County has a trained officer in place, the town of Erwin recently hired two officers.
On Monday, the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a budget amendment to cover the costs associated with these school resource officers.
An effort by local law enforcement and government entities led to full-time school resource officers being placed in all Unicoi County schools once students returned from Christmas break. Prior to this, officers were already in place at Unicoi County Middle School and Unicoi County High School.
Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley previously said the Erwin Police Department is providing an officer to cover Unicoi County Intermediate School. Hensley said the department is also providing an officer at Rock Creek Elementary School, the salary for which is being funded by the school system. The Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department is providing officers for the county’s other schools.
These officers are to remain in place at the schools through at least the end of this school year.
“We have every school in the city and, actually, every school in the county covered, which is something that I’m very proud of,” Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley said Monday. “There’s not many counties that have done that, and I’m very proud that we have taken the initial steps and done that to protect our young people as well as our teachers, and the public, also.”
Hensley said the salary of one of the officers recently hired by the town will be reimbursed by the school system. Hensley said this officer will still be considered an employee of the town and will answer to Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson.
“I think that’s a good working plan, not only for the school system, but also for the city, too,” Hensley said.
Town Recorder Randy Trivette said the officers will be funded through the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year, and the cost of the two officers for the remainder of this fiscal year is a little more than $48,540. He said the school system is providing around $21,400 for the cost of one of the officers. The board approved a budget amendment of $27,130 for the salary and equipment costs associated with the other officer hired. Once school lets out for summer break, this officer will be used to cover vacations for the Erwin Police Department.
Trivette said this money will come from the town’s unappropriated surplus account. He also said how this position could be funded for a full year may be discussed when town officials begin discussion of the 2013-14 fiscal year budget later this year.
In a work session held prior to the regular board meeting, the board met to discuss some of the town’s upcoming projects. Much of this discussion focused on the downtown Erwin revitalization project.
Trivette said engineering drawings on phase one of the project are nearly complete, and these drawings should be 95 percent complete by the end of the month. He said the next step in the process, after the completed drawings have been reviewed, is to put phase one of the project out to bid.
Trivette said it is hoped that construction on the first phase of the project, which covers the area from 50 feet north of Gay Street through Second Street, will begin in March and be completed by the end of September, ahead of the Unicoi County Apple Festival.
The cost for this phase has been estimated at around $1.4 million. Trivette said proposed that the town pay for the first phase construction by using $800,000 owed by Unicoi County Memorial Hospital as part of a May 2012 agreement and a $750,000 contribution Mountain States Health Alliance is set to make to the town after acquiring UCMH last year.
In other business, the board:
n Approved a bid from Duncan Mechanical for a culvert repair project on Unicoi Street.
n Approved a request from the Downtown Merchants Association for downtown road closures for the summer 2013 car shows. The road will be closed from the corner of Gay Street and Main Avenue to Love Street for the car shows, which will begin the first of April and continue through the end of October.
n Elected Alderman Lester Bailey to serve as Erwin vice-mayor.
n Approved having Erwin Utilities install lights on the north end of the Erwin Linear Trail.
n Appointed Russell Brackins and Jim Crawford as at-large members to serve on the county’s Economic Development Board for one-year terms.