BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – A Lee County Sheriff’s deputy will now be stationed on the Central Lee school campus full time.
Lee County Deputy Tommy Oberman will be the Central Lee School District’s School Resource Officer for the upcoming year, thanks to a 4-0 approval of a shared cost agreement between the district and the Lee County Board of Supervisors.
According to the three-year 28E agreement approved Tuesday, the school district would pay the county $40,000 the first year, then $45,000 and $50,000 in years two and three, respectively, for the cost of Oberman’s presence in the district. Oberman would remain a county employee and member of the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.
The county would continue to pick up the rest of Oberman’s salary and benefits which are close to $70,000 when all benefits are included.
Central Lee Superintendent Andy Crozier addressed the board at it’s regular meeting Tuesday.
“We had several discussions with Sheriff (Stacy) Weber and Chief Deputy (Will) Conlee about the importance of a school resource officer,” Crozier said. “In a normal situation, the 2A and 3A-type school is partnering with their local municipality law enforcement, and we don’t have that luxury. Donnellson and Montrose don’t have the capacity to support that.”
Crozier said he reached out to a couple other school districts, including Mediapolis, where they have a relationship with the county sheriff department and they helped coordinate providing a school resource officer in the building.
“We are about eight minutes from the sheriff’s office and that’s with them driving about 100 mph. So heaven forbid there was ever an incident at Central Lee schools, we would be at the mercy of whatever is taking place, without the protection of a school resource officer.”
He said the district had made a decision prior to a failed bond referendum this spring, to move forward with increasing safety at the school and an SRO was a high priority in those discussions.
Oberman is already well known in the district as he’s currently the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) officer. Crozier said the student body has built a trust with Oberman and he can provide additional support to the students. Crozier said Oberman would be at the K-8 and the high school buildings.
Putting Oberman in the district full time while students are in the buildings could put a strain on the department’s staff, but it’s something Weber said they would work through.
“We’re working on a grant,” Weber said.”We’re waiting on a COPS grant to be opened up federally to help backfill that money so we can go back and ask for another deputy. “It will cramp us a little bit and there will be some overtime accrual, but it’s a priority. With the staffing we had, we were comfortable and guys were able to take vacations, but Central Lee came to us, and with all the school shootings we just had to do this.”
Conlee, who handles the department’s scheduling, said Oberman will still be available to the sheriff’s department during the summer months, and any other days when students aren’t in the building.
“Early outs, In-service, Thanksgiving, anytime when students are out, he’s back out on the road,” Conlee said. “The COPS hiring grant, which is what we banked on getting right now, is held up in litigation over immigration. It’s usually awarded by July.”
Weber said that’s why he want to Washington D.C. this summer.
“I wanted them to know from us that that grant is going to backfill the position that we’re going to put into our schools to protect our kids,” Weber said. “They need to get that going now ,and I said that directly to Matt Whitaker, who’s right under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”
Whitaker, who’s originally from Iowa, is Sessions Chief of Staff and Senior Counselor.
Conlee said there are no extra deputies on staff and he might have to put detectives and possibly other staff into the regular rotation to staff the sheriff’s department.