During their regular meeting Feb. 19, the Libby City Council heard a presentation for Libby Chief of Police Scott Kessel and Libby Public Schools Superintendent Craig Barringer about the coordination between the police department and schools to develop a tenable plan for a school resource officer.
Kessel said that the effort to bring a resource officer back to Libby has been in the works for approximately two years.
“Myself, the school district, sheriff Darren Short, have all been kicking this around, trying to figure out how we can implement a school resource officer in Libby.
Kessel said that the need should be “abundantly clear” not just for reasons related to concerns over direct violence, but for also dealing with problems such as cyber bullying.
“Back when we were younger, you went home, you weren’t bullied anymore,” he said. With modern technology, children can’t escape bullying, and that leads to acting out.
Kessel emphasized that the goal is not to have a simple armed guard. Rather, the role is meant to be proactive, engaged and preventative.
“They’ve got to be dealing with children, and they’ve got to be able to relate to whatever child is in front of them, no matter what their quirks, their ideas, and build that rapport,” he said.
Kessel said that the police department would provide training and equipment. At this time, the department has extra vehicles, so no new patrol car would have to be purchased.
In addition, the department could be benefitted by lower overtime expenditures, as the resource officer would be free from school duties to cover vacations and extra patrols during the summer.
The main hurdle that Kessel and Barringer identified is funding for the officer. Though Flathead Electric Cooperative has offered a grant that would pay for approximately 30 percent of salary for a resource officer, that grant money is only meant to help get the program started, and would go away after five years.
They agreed that they want to find a funding method that will not be dependent on a grant. However, they have not determined what form that would take.
Barringer said that there are some school safety bills in front of the legislature, and the school board will be discussing other funding options.
Kessel noted that the department and board are not moving forward with the project at this time, but came to the council to keep them updated on progress.
The city council also heard from the Lights, Streets and Sidewalks Committee. Council member Brian Zimmerman told the council that a leak Feb. 12 near the Harlow bus barn was contained to the parking lot. However, it was a “pretty good-sized leak,” and city workers reported that an approximately six-foot portion of the pipe “looked like swiss cheese.”
Zimmerman said that workers replaced that section of pipe to repair the leak.