Parkersburg wants police officers in schools

PARKERSBURG – The city is applying for a grant to place police officers in area middle schools, but officials warn cuts at the federal level may affect the program’s chances of being funded.

Mayor Bob Newell said the city is applying for a $140,000 Justice Assistance Grant to place Prevention Resource Officers at Parkersburg’s two high schools and three middle schools. The city already provides officers for Parkersburg and Parkersburg South high schools.

The grant is provided through a department of the U.S. Department of Justice, and Newell said he fears with the recent sequester cuts, grant funding may be one of the first areas to go.

“I think that it is pretty contingent upon this sequestering,” Newell said. “It comes through the state, but is ultimately federal money.”

If received, the funding would be used to hire three additional officers to be stationed at Edison, Hamilton and Van Devender middle schools.

“It would be a matter of hiring three additional officer above our allotment,” he said. “You can’t use the money to supplant your budget; you have to hire specifically for those jobs.”

Newell said the city pays most of the cost of the officers stations at PHS and PSHS. Connie Roberts, finance director for Wood County Schools, says the district does pay a portion of those costs.

“We do pay a portion of their salary and benefits,” Roberts said.

Williamstown High School’s Prevention Resource Officer is provided through the Wood County Sheriff’s Department.

Roberts said school officials have not yet received any guidance from state officials on how the sequester might affect local schools funding.

The grant opportunity came just days after Councilman John Kelly requested officers to be placed in city middle schools. The comment came during a hearing on the city’s proposed 2013-14 budget.

“Within a couple of days of his comments, this new opportunity came through,” Newell said.

Council approved Newell applying for the grant at its Feb. 26 meeting. Newell said the application is due by March 29, and officials will hear if it is approved in April or May.

If approved, the grant would cover a nine-month period, beginning in the fall, he said.