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City council approves full-time officer at OHS

By Vinde Wells

An Oregon school resource officer is one step away from becoming a reality when classes resume after the Christmas break.

The Oregon City Council gave its unanimous approval Tuesday evening to an entering into an intergovernmental agency agreement with the Oregon School District to share the costs of the SRO.

All that remains is for the school board to approve the agreement, which it is expected to do at its Dec. 17 meeting.

Plans call for Oregon Police Sergeant Randy Cropp to be on duty full-time at Oregon High School beginning Jan. 2.

School Superintendent Tom Mahoney said the shooting at Dixon High School last May prompted the school board to take action to have an SRO in place as soon as possible.

DHS senior Matt Milby, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, fired shots at a teacher in the gym on 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.

The city council hired an additional officer Nov. 13 to replace Cropp when he begins his new assignment.

Oregon Mayor Ken 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 year 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 city council also unanimously approved placing a referendum on the April ballot asking City of Oregon taxpayers to pick up the city’s share of the cost after the initial start-up period.

“Whenever we have a new expense, we need a source of revenue to pay for it,” Williams said.

He 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.

If approved, the tax increase will appear on property tax bills in 2020.

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 unfolds.

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.

In a related matter, the city council approved buying a used 2014 Dodge Charger for the school resource officer from Veto Enterprises, Sycamore, at a cost not to exceed $16,000.

Police Chief Darin DeHaan said the car has low miles on it and is fully outfitted as a police vehicle.

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