School Resource Officer Starts Position

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Although a formal contract has yet to be signed, a school resource officer has been on duty at Nelsonville-York Schools since school started Monday.

Athens County Sheriff Patrick Kelly said Duane Covert is at the schools as a volunteer reserve deputy.

“It is commendable that he is donating his time to the schools,” Kelly said.

The sheriff said Covert is not currently on the payroll of the sheriff’s office.

As a reserve deputy, Covert has police powers, Kelly said. Covert retired recently from the Nelsonville Police Department and had reserve sheriff’s deputy status while on the department, according to Kelly, who said Covert also is a member of the sheriff’s Special Response Team.

As a volunteer, Covert is walking around the campus, “making his presence known,” explained Supt. Mick McClelland. He is carrying his sidearm while on duty at the schools.

“I am excited this all coming together,” said McClelland via email. “Mr. Covert and I have had several conversations about the expectations of the position, and he has some great ideas, including getting into some of the classrooms for educational purposes.”

The school district intends to contract with the sheriff’s office for Covert’s services, and the contract as originally proposed called for the school resource offer to be employed as a deputy at the sheriff’s office, with the school reimbursing the salary costs.

The contract was on the agenda of the county commissioners’ Aug. 6 meeting, but they raised questions about the document. Kelly asked them to put their concerns in writing, and, as The Messenger reported last week, Kelly responded to them in writing on Friday.

However, the contract was not on the agenda of this past Tuesday’s commissioners meeting.

County Commission President Lenny Eliason told The Messenger that he is waiting for language from the county prosecutor’s office for a catch-all provision for cost recovery that can be added to the contract. In essence, it would make the school district responsible for costs that might arise that not specifically covered by the contract.

Eliason said he expects the contract to be on the agenda of the commissioners’ next meeting, which is Thursday, Aug. 29.