Aldermen support idea of adding full-time police officer at Turner

By Gary Scott on April 13, 2015 at 11:30pm

Jacksonville aldermen unanimously have passed a resolution expressing their intention for the city to hire a second school resource officer.

Currently there’s one officer at Jacksonville High School who also spends time at Turner Junior High School. Aldermen discussed adding a full-time SRO to Turner as District 117 continues through pre-construction plans for the school renovation project that will ultimately see sixth graders added to the mix.

Alderman Bruce McDaniel observed during last night’s city council meeting that things are “getting rough” at Turner. Alderwoman Lori Large-Oldenettel cited the recent string of high-profile violent incidents in the city as a reason why this move should be made.

“I think the perception of the police in genearl has changed over time. I think as a city or municipality, we need to do everything that we can to work with our Jacksonville Police Department and our youth to make sure that our youth have a better relationship with the police department,” she says.

“Hopefully they can be more proactive instead of reactive, and they’ll have a better relationship with just people in general in the community, but most importantly, our youth who eventually will grow up and be residents of the city,” Oldenettel continues.

Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard said during last night’s city council workshop that the intent is to place a school resource officer at Turner at the beginning of next year.

The issue aldermen expressed concern about is how the additional officer will be paid for.

Police Chief Tony Grootens says he wants a current officer with experience- preferably with juvenile issues- at Turner, and to maintain the officer staff level, currently at 40, a new hire would need to be made. Ezard speculates on the chances of that happening.

“I think they’re very good. There’s a lot to be done at the state level as far as the governor’s proposed budget. Cutting our funding, if that does come to fruition, then we’re going to have to take another look because that would be in the tune of close to a million dollars,” Ezard explains.

“But, if there’s a middle ground or if there’s nothing that comes out of our funding, then we will probably move forward on this.”

District 117 pays $40,000 towards the school resource officer at JHS, which Ezard says is about half the total officer cost.

He says the school district would help with the Turner officer, and that during the summertime, that person would have another job- providing Lake Jacksonville with a police presence.

“That’s really killing two birds with one stone, so to speak, because we’ve heard the concerns of the aldermen with the Parks and Lakes [Committee] that they want more arresting powers out there for some of the things that go on, but it also helps Turner Junior High School as well, having an SRO there,” he says.

The new school resource officer would work twelve-hour shifts at the lake, while supplemental security would be provided by Centurion Security Services.

One other law enforcement-related item approved last night was the FOP contract for patrolmen in the Jacksonville Police Department. Ezard says it’s a four-year deal with an annual two-percent pay increase.

Also last night, a resolution regarding a $79-hundred tax increment financing grant to the owners of Krush Nutritionn was approved.

City Development Director Kelly Hall says the the money will go to remaining work to the heating and air conditioning systems, sign marquis repair, and work on various fire doors at the former Times Theatre downtown location.

Aldermen approved the first reading of an ordinance changing property at 1213 West Walnut from business zoning to residential. Developers want to turn the old Bowling Center building into a four-unit apartment complex.