As the Soldotna City Council was about to approve its 2005-06 budget, council slipped in another $63,000 for an additional full-time Soldotna police officer who will act as a school resource officer.
Council member and Kenai Peninsula Borough School District employee Sharon Moock said the benefits of a resource officer are tremendous. She said kids benefit by building a rapport with law enforcement.
"(The officer) would be more of an educational liaison for the police department," she said.
Council member Ed Sleater said the school district should pay for the personnel.
"We're spending money we don't have. The school district should carry the expense, not the city," Sleater said.
Soldotna Police Chief John Lucking Jr. said the resource officer would be an expansion of the Drug Awareness and Resistance Education program, also known as D.A.R.E. He said the heaviest value of the officer would be to build a harmony between kids and police.
City Manager Tom Boedeker said since the council decided to make a new officer a priority, he'll find a way to finance it.
"It's always a good idea. We'll just have to figure out how to pay for it," Boedeker said. "I could use someone extra in the summer season, so that's definitely a plus."
D.A.R.E. officers have been part of the schools in recent years, and a half-time officer occasionally would grace school halls several years ago. That likely will change with the next school year, depending on how quickly an officer can be hired, trained or shuffled.
On a typical Soldotna afternoon, there are two officers on per shift, sometimes three, depending on traffic surges. An additional officer would be dedicated to the schools during the school year and help with surging traffic during the summer months.
The officer would serve all schools in the Soldotna city limits and be assigned exclusively to schools, barring emergencies.
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