County Commissioners Say N-Y Has To Pay Full Cost For Resource Officer

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Hiring a school resource officer for Nelsonville-York School District ran into a hitch Tuesday when the county commissioners raised questions about the proposed contract.

The plan is for the sheriff’s office to hire Duane Covert of Nelsonville for the position, with the school district paying Covert’s salary — $24,303, including wages, Medicare, PERS and workman’s comp costs. Covert is retiring this week from the Nelsonville Police Department. He would become the county’s first armed school resource officer.

A proposed agreement between the county and the school district, which requires the signatures of the county commissioners, was discussed at Tuesday’s meeting of the commissioners.

Although he said he supports the idea of a school resource officer, Commissioner Charlie Adkins said the proposed contract doesn’t require the school district to cover all the costs — which Adkins said he believes is required by Ohio law.

“I didn’t see all the costs being shifted to the school,” Adkins said. “They have to pay the whole cost of administration of this program.”

He said, for example, that the contract doesn’t address the cost of a car, uniforms, vacation and sick pay and medical insurance.

“I’m not going to sign a contract unless it says in there that the district will pay all the (costs) of the position …,” Adkins said.

Commissioner Lenny Eliason agreed that Ohio law requires all costs to be covered by the school district.

Sheriff Patrick Kelly, who was at the commissioners meeting, countered that the contract had been drafted by a county assistant prosecutor and reviewed by a school district attorney.

“It covers what we need to cover in the contract,” Kelly said.

County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn told The Messenger that legally there are two ways that contract could be set up. One way — the one his office was asked by the sheriff to draft — calls for the county to pick up part of the cost. The other method, in the Ohio Revised Code section cited by the commissioners, would require the school district to cover the entire cost and could be done by the sheriff without approval of the commissioners.

Kelly said that providing a car and equipment for the resource officer is within his discretion. He said the car is one that the department no longer has use for, and the only gasoline costs will be for the officer driving from home to the school. He said a gun was purchased, but it will remain county property. He said a couple shirts also were bought.

“The benefit outweighs the cost,” the sheriff said.

Kelly said there was no need for the contract to reference county medical insurance because Covert will be insured through his wife’s employment employment He said Covert will sign a waiver.

Eliason said the medical insurance should be addressed in the contract in case Covert’s insurance situation changes.

Kelly asked that the commissioners provide him a list of their concerns. Kelly told The Messenger that if the list is provided, he will take it to the county prosecutor’s office for review.

“Hopefully we can get this all worked out before school starts,” Kelly said.