Springfield ponders grant for school cop
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | April 27,2013
SPRINGFIELD — The town is again debating whether to apply for a $125,000 federal grant to help pay for a police officer for Springfield High School.
The town has twice been successful in applying for the federal funding in recent years, only to have the School Board balk at paying a share of the costs.
The Select Board debated the issue again this week, after Town Manager Robert Forguites said the 30-day window had opened for applying for a Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, grant. The window closes in late May.
Police Chief Douglas Johnston said he was willing to apply for the detailed grant, but after being burned twice, wanted some kind of assurance the town wouldn’t turn the grant down.
Such behavior will hurt the town in the future when it applies for other federal funding, he said.
“I don’t want to ‘cry wolf’ to the feds,” he said.
Select Board members made it clear that while they were willing to help pay for part of the officer’s salary and benefits, the bulk of the funding, or 75 percent, should come from the School Board.
Select Board members said that while schools aren’t in session year round, they expected the school would keep the officer occupied even during vacation months.
Forguites and Johnston estimated that the grant, which lasts three years but requires a fourth year fully funded by the town, would only cover about half the cost of the benefits and salary of the officer.
The cost of benefits is about equal to the starting salary of an officer, which is currently estimated at $38,956. Benefits were estimated at $35,000, by Jeff Mobus, the town’s finance officer.
Selectwoman Stephanie Gibson said she was willing for the town to contribute toward the school’s resource officer because of the town’s push to crack down on crime and drug dealing.
“Budgets are right, but I would support pursuing this,” she said. “It would be money well spent for the children of Springfield.”
And the police chief said that over the course of the grant, those costs are only expected to go up, due to new negotiations with the police union, as well as the increasing costs of benefits.
Kristi Morris, chairman of the Select Board, said he broached the issue with Scott Adnams, chairman of the School Board. He said he expected the two boards would get together in the near future to hash out the issue.
He said Adnams wanted to know why the issue had been brought up again.
Adnams didn’t return a call for comment.
Forguites said later he had discussed the issue briefly with acting Superintendent Zach McLaughlin.
“Doug has been directed to start preparing to do the grant, but not to put a lot of effort into it until there’s a clear signal from the School Board,” Forguites said.