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Council splits again on school officer

Staff Writer

In an expected reversal of a decision made last week, the Lincolnton City Council decided during its special called meeting Tuesday night to reinstate funding into the proposed 2012-2013 budget for a School Resource Officer position at Lincolnton High School.
Council members voted 2-1 in favor of restoring the officer to Lincolnton’s list of budgeted positions, with council member Carroll Heavner opposed. He and Larry Mac Hovis, who was absent Tuesday, have consistently voted against city funding for the position during previous votes.
As previously reported, Dr. John “Les” Cloninger told the Times-News on Thursday that the special meeting was called after new information had come to the attention of council members that he believed warranted another look at city involvement in the program.
This came after the council voted 3-1 at a budget work session May 14 to eliminate funding for the position, with Cloninger, Heavner and Hovis all insisting it was the responsibility of the county and council member Devin Rhyne in opposition. Mayor John Gilleland likewise called the move a bad idea.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Cloninger made the motion in favor of allocating funding into the next fiscal year’s budget after explaining the new information that had resulted in council members revisiting the issue.
“We were made aware that if an officer was provided by a security company, that individual would have no arresting authority, and a Lincolnton police officer would have to be dispatched to the high school,” he said.
“We are receiving more than two-thirds of funding for the salary of the officer, and we would be able to utilize that position within the city when school is not in session,” he added.
Heavner meanwhile emphasized that there are no longer any Lincolnton city schools, that they are now Lincoln County schools and that the resource officer at Lincolnton High School was provided by the county in past years.
He also pointed to the election of Sheriff David Carpenter as the reason for the change, saying Carpenter chose not to fund the position.
Because Lincolnton High School is within the city’s jurisdiction, Carpenter has supported having a city police officer on duty there.
“It’s the responsibility of Lincoln County and not the city of Lincolnton,” Heavner added.
The City Council previously approved the position in October after a 3-2 vote, with Heavner and Hovis opposed and Gilleland having broken the tie to narrowly pass the measure.
As a result of that earlier decision, the school, with money received from the state, is paying for 10 months of the officer’s salary and benefits, while the city will foot the bill for the two months the school will be on summer vacation, in the amount of $13,500.

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