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City, school district work to provide officer at OHS

Sgt. Randy Cropp
Sgt. Randy Cropp

When Oregon High School students go back to class after the Christmas break, they will be greeted by a face that may be familiar but new to the building.

Oregon Police Sergeant Randy Cropp will be on duty as the school resource officer when classes resume Jan. 2.

“The situation in Dixon last spring brought the need to our attention,” School Superintendent Tom Mahoney said Monday. “We just didn’t feel we could wait any longer.”

Dixon High School senior Matt Milby, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, fired shots at a teacher in the gym last May 16 during graduation practice.

He took off running when confronted and pursued by the School Resource Officer Mark Dallas and was soon taken into custody.

City of Oregon and Oregon School District officials are cooperating to share the cost of having an officer in the school full-time during the school year.

The city council took action to get the process rolling Nov. 13 when it approved hiring an additional police officer subject to the approval of an intergovernmental agency agreement with the school district.

The council voted unanimously to hire Josh Lee, and he is scheduled to begin police training in January, according to Mayor Ken Williams.

Hiring Lee will free up Cropp to be on duty at the school.

The council is expected to vote on the agreement on Nov. 27, along with a resolution for a referendum for the April ballot to fund the city’s share of the cost.

Mahoney said the school board will vote on the agreement in December.

Williams said the school district will pay 70 percent of the cost, and the city will pick up the remaining 30 percent.

He estimated the initial cost for the first six months of the SRO at just under $90,000 for Cropp’s salary and benefits and the necessary equipment.

The city’s portion, around $28,000, will come from the General Fund.

Mahoney said the school will pay its share from the Tort Fund.

During the summer, when school is out, the SRO will work as a patrol officer for the city, Williams said.

The officer will also be available to fill in for other officers when they are on vacation, reducing overtime costs, he said.

The proposed referendum, which will affect only City of Oregon taxpayers, will pay for the city’s share of the ongoing costs after the initial start-up period.

Williams said the referendum will ask for just over two cents per $100 equalized assessed valuation, which translates into $20.67 per year on a house valued at $100,000.

That will bring in an estimated $29,000 per year, he said.

Mahoney said the SRO will be on duty at the high school at first, and will spend time at the other school buildings as the plan is developed.

Williams said the city council is working out the details on how to proceed if the referendum fails in April.

If that happens and Oregon is unable to provide the SRO, Mahoney said the school district could look to another police agency, such as the Mt. Morris Police Department or the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department.

Statutes require that an SRO must be a full-time police officer, he said.

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