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What’s the point of cutting SRO?

TIM SHAIN
Guest columnist

In response your article on Wednesday headlined, “City cuts high school officer in split vote,” I am still trying to completely understand the positions of Larry Mac Hovis, Dr. John “Les” Cloninger and Carroll Heavner on the SRO (School Resources Officer) at Lincolnton High School.
I do understand the debate on double taxation. There are situations when taxpaying citizens of Lincolnton are taxed on a specific item via their county taxes and again on their city taxes.
If they collectively determined that defunding the SRO position at Lincolnton High was a good issue to take a stand on to prove a point, they were woefully mistaken.
In fact it was one of the worst decisions this City Council has ever made.
Continuing to fund and support an SRO through the LPD (Lincolnton Police Department) would have been the right thing to do.
It is fiscally, strategically and fundamentally correct for the following reasons.
1. Lincolnton teens go to Lincolnton High. Having the SRO from LPD is the best opportunity for a member of the LPD to build relationships with teens, observe their activities, and get intel.
2. In the case of an emergency, LPD could offer the largest show of force in the shortest amount of time. It would be important for LPD to be in charge when support arrives.
3. It would have been a financially sound decision. It is reported that the yearly cost including salary, benefits and supplies of the officer who supports the SRO is $68,000. The Lincoln County Sheriffs Office and the state pay $55,000 and Lincolnton pays $13,000
4. The relationship with Lincolnton High School and the LPD. Since LPD started supporting the SRO they also have the opportunity to support high school events like football and basketball games. The school pays the officers who support these events. The removal and defunding of the SRO position would certainly reduce or eliminate these opportunities going forward.
I would like to commend Mayor John Gilleland and Councilman Devin Rhyne for attempting to convince Councilmen Cloninger, Hovis and Heavner not to make a terrible mistake.
I would also like to thank Chief Rodney Jordan for trying to influence their decision to keep supporting the SRO.
• Four years ago the City Council wanted to purchase the old Ford Dealership Property that could be a significant tax base and build a Police Station that would offer no tax base.
• Last year they wanted to renovate the existing Police Station to the tune of $3 million.
• Ten months ago they wanted to support Lincolnton High School with the SRO.
• Now they want to save $13,000 out of a $27 million budget by defunding and not supporting Lincolnton High School with an SRO.
It is very obvious we need a business plan that is both short and long term.
How are they going to spin the facts of this debacle? Maybe they will say they did not know that the LPD officers had an opportunity to work at the high school, but the records from the budget meeting will clearly state that Chief Jordan specifically told them that if we remove the SRO from the high school, the LPD would probably lose the opportunity to work these events.
So maybe they just did not care about the LPD and were more concerned about making a point.
Lincolnton City Council, make your points when the safety of our teenagers and the livelihood of our LPD Officers are not on the line.
Lincolnton Police, thank you for all you do, Lincolnton appreciates your hard work and dedication.
Tim Shain lives in Lincolnton.

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