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City Council Votes to Double Police in Schools, 3-2

The following is a recap of our live coverage from the Jan. 7 City Council meeting.

8:48 p.m. The meeting adjourned.

8:48 p.m. "Every day it gives comfort to the parents who drop their children off," Mayor Wayne Dougherty said of school resource officers. Of the kids, he said, they are "our most valuable asset."

8:45 p.m. Hollee Sifford commented on the budget amendment for school resource officers. "I remember the first SRO," said Sifford, who works in the school system. "I don't really think arguing over the cost is effective....At the end of the day, it's about those kids...That's what it's all about."

8:44 p.m. Stephen of Market Street commented on the budget amendment for school resource officers and said all comments were anecdotal. "As a citizen, I don't think it was right to not give it more time to be tailored to the needs of our school system," he said, based on a Department of Justice study that Councilman Randy Craig cited.

8:42 p.m. Joe Kochenderfer commented on development at Aberdeen Proving Ground and on the school resource officer issue. Mayor Wayne Dougherty said that the police chief has her budget for overtime: "This $40,000 allows her to place two additional officers in schools and if possible, to pay them overtime if they're short on the street." He said if it were not used, the money would go back to the general fund. "It has been in the planning stages for quite some time," Dougherty said of expanding the school resource officer program.

8:40 p.m. Mayor Wayne Dougherty said that he would have his staff look into the matter because this was a major problem. "It's horrible," said Dougherty.

8:36 p.m. Chief of Police Teresa Walter said that the dog owners had been issued five citations and she had spoken to animal control.

8:35 p.m. Lynn Bradley of Grace Harbor was accompanied by three neighbors during the citizen comment period to express her concern about the safety of their neighborhood due to dogs that were attacking "human beings and other animals." She had a police report from an incident Dec. 23 and said that animal control could not do anything to help.

8:30 p.m. Mr. McGee spoke up during the citizen comment period. He said that he and a colleague gave a presentation about the Vandiver Inn and will be giving one on Miller Tydings. He is providing pamphlets to the council. Mayor Wayne Dougherty expressed his appreciation to McGee for promoting the city of Havre de Grace.

8:25 p.m. "It's always hard" to negotiate the budget, Council President Randy Craig said, touching on the school resource officer program, which he said was a "very effective program." He said it's been tested last year at an elementary school. "Now what we're doing is taking that to the next step and what better time than now to let parents know...that we're ready, that that planning had already been done." He said it made him proud of the Havre de Grace Police Department. "There's parents every day that drop their kids off at the bus stop and head to work with an armed guard" at Aberdeen Proving Ground and their kids don't have that protection at school, Craig said. "You used to be able to go on an airplane without taking your shoes off, but things change. And we have to make those choices."

8:18 p.m. Councilman Bill Martin said "we are getting in full swing" for the War of 1812 bicentennial commemoration. "I noticed six properties in the city have the new flag flying," which was based on an resolution from a previous council meeting. He also referred to the school resource officer conversation to add more comments. "Ask the parents from Newtown if they mind their property taxes going up for a school resource oficer," Martin said. He said he feels badly for people in Fallston and Bel Air who will watch this council meeting on TV Tuesday and wish they had school resource officers like Havre de Grace. He also said he wishes that Congress would get behind the school resource program in some capacity.

8:16 p.m. Councilman John Correri congratulated Fire Chief Scott Hurst of the Susquehanna Hose Company for a new accredidation. He also said he and his wife enjoyed the War of 1812 Bicentennial New Year's eve party.

8:15 p.m. Councilman Joseph Smith explained that his vote against the budget amendment for the school resource officers stemmed from a concern about process. Councilwoman Barbara Wagner said that her nay vote was about "professional courtesy" and waiting to make any decisions until including the Board of Education in the process. She also congratulated Councilman Smith on his Jan. 1 wedding. She said that the Green Team is actively seeking volunteers and would like to assign individuals a spot in the community garden by mid February if they are interested.

8:04 p.m. Mayor Wayne Dougherty is discussing JDH, an office complex proposal that did not come to fruition and which he vetoed last year. He is reading an article in the Harford Business Ledger talking about stalled projects.

8 p.m. Chief of Police Teresa Walter said the police department would be doing another drug take-back over the next month or two. She also thanked the VFW for recognizing PFC Anthony Molesky. "He is a phenomenal police officer" who is "very quiet, very understated" but he is "an exceptional police officer," Walter said.

7:57 p.m. Director of Planning Neal Mills said that on Jan. 14, there will be a public hearing at City Hall to review the Upper Chesapeake site plan. "We encourage those who are interested in how that project is going on to attend," Mills said.

7:55 p.m. Motion to amend budget for school resource officers passed 3-2. Voting "no" were Councilwoman Barbara Wagner and Councilman Joseph Smith. Voting "yes" were Councilmen John Correri, Randy Craig and Bill Martin.

7:50 p.m. Councilman Bill Martin said that his principal at Aberdeen Middle School, where he teaches, wishes that they could have a school resource officer full-time. He said that a school resource officer is not being introduced in Havre de Grace because schools are "the Wild West" but that school resource officers can intervene when there are kids walking through the halls with butane lighters out and when people on drugs come to the door.

7:45 p.m. Councilman Bill Martin asked the police chief whether she had communicated with the central office about adding two new school resource officers in Havre de Grace. Chief of Police Teresa Walter said that she talked to the school superintendent and security officer for the schools. Dr. Tomback did not provide any direction other than to have the school resource officers, she answered in response to Martin's question as to whether she was told to "stand down." Walter said that last year she moved the middle school resource officer to Meadowvale Elementary School and it was a positive change; she said parents and students were regretful when the officer was moved back to another school.

7:35 p.m. Council President Randy Craig said that this was the time for action. "There are very few opportunities on the council to take real immediate action" that will effect change. "Public safety begins with providing the resources necessary to get the job done."

7:30 p.m. Councilman Joseph Smith made a motion to delay the budget amendment about police in school. Councilwoman Barbara Wagner seconded. Councilmen Correri, Craig and Martin moved not to table it. The motion failed. Councilwoman Wagner said that she was "disappointed" the Board of Education was not involved in the discussion to add school resource officers and that it was a professional courtesy to include them in the conversation.

7:20 p.m. The budget amendment regarding adding two police officers to two Havre de Grace schools is up for introduction. Councilman Joseph Smith said he would like more time to understand the effectiveness and intent of school resource officers.

7:18 p.m. Lynn Jurkowski was sworn into oath of office for the Planning Commission.

PFC Anthony Molesky was awarded Outstanding Police Officer of the Year for 2012. He was commended by the VFW and Havre de Grace Police Department for his meticulous reports and demeanor with the public and other officers.

The meeting began at 7 p.m. with the roll call. Councilman David Glenn is not present; the mayor said he was ill. The Pledge of Allegiance, opening prayer and review of minutes followed. Councilman Bill Martin asked to amend the minutes from the last meeting to reflect that the Candlelight Tour did in fact take place.

James P. Miller January 08, 2013 at 03:17 AM
I will start out by stating that I support putting additional Police Officers in our schools. I find it interesting that during my six years on the council ending a short six months ago there was never any mention in the budget process there was a need for additional SRO to be assigned to the Harford County Public Schools located in the city. Now all of the sudden it was there all along, just not on the papers the council was privy too. The Mayor and council members stated it was always planned. Reading the Mayors letter attached to the Agenda tells a different story. As you are well aware, and as has been well documented, there has been a recent tragedy in Newtown. The matter has captured national attention and the safety of children while at school is at the forefront of parental concern. I have, therefore, increase Police patrol at our schools, effective immediately. My intention is to reassure our parents and strongly discourage any misguided attempt to garner publicity while recent events capture our nation’s attention. Why does the Mayor insist on spending the limited resources of the taxpaying citizens of Havre de Grace and never once asked The County Council, County Executive, County Sheriff or the County School Board for their plan in handling the need to protect the children. Havre de Grace is part of Harford County many students that attend are not residents of the city. They live out in the County and the County has a responsibility.
Sandra Hash January 08, 2013 at 12:40 PM
I applaud the mayor and members of the council who voted to put the police in the schools right away. The money issue can be worked out later! Our children are the most important! Not the money! This isn't about who pays to fix a road, it's about the safety of our children!
Hollee Sifford January 08, 2013 at 01:17 PM
The SRO program has been around for QUITE A LONG TIME...Like i mentioned the first SRO was Officer Helmcamp and he was the beginning of a GREAT idea.and GREAT program....I not only as a mom but employee see the positive influence the SRO program brings to the school.and also the respect that comes from that.I am sure every "PROGRAM" needs to be funded and the $ has to come from somewhere however,This program and the officers involved is worth every penny no matter where it comes from....Council member Smith stated it is a process he is questioning...Well Sir I would suggest mayb you and council member Wagner mayb take a day and visit the schools and watch "THE PROCESS" unfold so u can have a better understanding..Sometimes reading about something and looking at statistics are nothing in comparison as to watching these officers as they implement a safe,educational and positive presence in the school....Talk to Admin,talk to students,staff and teachers...So when the decision has to be made on funding you have first hand knowledge not just studies and statistics
Curtis Coon January 08, 2013 at 10:10 PM
It is time that teachers were given SRO training, so that we would not need as many SRO officers in our schools. We delete and/or minimize many deserving programs such as Art, Music, Phys Ed and other electives, yet we can spend overtime pay for SROs??? I fully support the short-term application of resources, given the recent events in Sandy Hook (and elsewhere) but, we lack a long-term plan and I must ask if we're not misplacing our priorities to have 2 SRO personnel but yet allow our children to go undereducated. IF it is "about the children", we first owe them safety, but if we have limited resources, we're watering down their education by going overtime and perhaps overboard.

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