In their continuing efforts to evaluate and beef up security at Sulphur Springs schools, SSISD trustees Monday night discussed purchasing two vehicles for the district’s Security Department.
Assistant Superintendent Randy Reed noted that the items were presented after evaluations earlier in the year when Sulphur Springs Independent School District officials more closely scrutinized school safety and security measures. Part of those evaluations included speaking with school security officers.
“We met with them about all things dealing with safety in and outside that affect schools, to develop a game plan to give more emphasis to securities and school safety. We also, this time, thought to develop a real budget for them. We’ve to this point been subject to and at the mercy of grants,” Reed noted.
The SSISD Security Department, as of this spring, includes a fifth staff member. The school board earlier in the school year approved the addition of one more officer to its police force, an additional measure to increase police presence on campuses and in the community. The district is also hoping to qualify for a grant which would allow it to add a sixth officer to the roster, and ideally would like to have staff available to screen security footage and others to patrol parking lots.
Officer Donnie Gaddis was assigned to Douglas Intermediate School and Glynda Chester was moved from Douglas to Sulphur Springs High School. The campus police chief will be moving to Austin Academic Center, but will be available as a roving officer to respond at any campus. He can be more of a presence at the elementary campuses. Also discussed at that time and again Monday night was making all officers more familiar with as many campuses as possible so they can assist as needed throughout the district.
Reed said part of the discussions with the school officers focused on their desire to present a more professional image as a police agency. The officers noted a need for another vehicle for the fifth officer and indicated they’d like it to be more in line with other police agencies’ vehicles.
“We have good working relationships with the city. They have donated the vehicles we have,” Reed said, adding that the Dodge Charger is the preferred new look SSISD Security Department is hoping for.
Reed suggested purchasing one vehicle now so all five officers will have a vehicle, then adopting a rotating replacement schedule for aging police vehicles, much like that used by the district’s transportation department for replacement of older buses.
District officials received proposals from two local car dealerships for a new police vehicle, utilizing officer and district specifications.
Brian Toliver Ford and Lincoln provided a bid for a 2014 Ford Taurus at a cost of $33,823 if it’s equipped with new accessories (radio console, seat divider/partition, light bars, etc.) and ordered by Aug. 1, and a cost of $28,508 if old equipment is used. That police interceptor could take 60-180 days for delivery.
Sulphur Springs Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram provided bids for 2013 and 2014 Dodge Chargers. The 2013 Charger was $32,499 with new accessories and $27,954 using old accessories. A 2014 Dodge Charger would cost $32,950.28 using old accessories and $451.28 more to add new accessories.
Reed noted it was too late as of the June 10 board meeting to order the 2013 Taurus. The 2013 Charger could be ordered through June.
Reed pointed out that if the department gets the grant for a sixth officer and one of the older units is “robbed” to provide accessories, that will mean no outfitted police car available for the sixth officer.
It was also noted the current district police chief is already sharing his vehicle with the technology department.
The SSISD Security Department is requesting the 2014 Dodge Charger. They picked the Charger after talking to others in law enforcement who use the cars, noting the Charger has more room when getting in and out of the car and in the back seat.
Board President Kerry Wright asked how frequently the back seat was utilized to transport students/individuals, if it’s enough to require more back seat space.
Reed said while there is a periodic need for officers to transport some students, it’s not an everyday occurrence.
Superintendent Michael Lamb said since Chester switched from Douglas to High School as her primary campus assignment, she’s already provided a more visible presence and expects she will continue to step up enforcement.
“She has radar certification, so we’ll be able to beef up surveillance around the school and can actually ticket violators,” Lamb said. “With radar, officers will have the option to set up at some school zones.”
Board member Jason Dietze pointed out he has already seen Chester park at Buford Park near the ballfields and stadium, exerting a presence. He said, hopefully, having more officers will allow the department to be out more as an active presence.
“The cars alone can act as a deterrent. If we park one in front of Bowie, it sitting there is a deterrent,” Dietze noted.
Board member Leesa Toliver recommended a newer model car versus an older 2013 model vehicle, especially in the Chargers if the cars are basically the same and priced very closely.
Lamb noted that in the future, the district might want to consider a rotation for attaining and replacing vehicles for other staff who have to drive off campus to utilize rather than their own.
Trustees unanimously approved the purchase of the 2014 Dodge Charger with a 5-0 vote, following a motion by Dietze and seconded by trustee Jacquelyn Brice.
Trustees opted, however, to table a proposal for purchase of an all-terrain vehicle for the security department until further information can be gathered and presented at a later time.
Reed said the request for the ATV was partly to do with increased presence and partly toward security.
Administrators noted they had sought bids for an ATV after a request from the security department to utilize at high school for more efficient travel across campus, through areas where the cars wouldn’t easily go.
Bids were received from two companies, one from Cub Cadet for a $7,049 4x2 Volunteer and one from Ag-Power for a $6,616.08 John Deere Gator TS. The lower priced Gator was recommended.
“It would certainly fulfill their need to be visible and a presence outside in the parking at the high school campus,” Reed said.
Lamb noted at the previous districts where he’s worked, the school has had golf carts to roll through the parking lot checking for appropriate parking stickers and things of that nature.
Wright asked what the difference in price of an ATV versus a golf cart would be. Brice too expressed an interest in learning the cost of a new golf cart.
Reed said the district did have a golf cart a few years ago, but not anymore. Because the security department had requested an ATV, golf carts were not priced. He noted that other departments could utilize the ATV when it is are not being used for policing functions.
Lamb used as an example of the practicality of a utility vehicle April’s heightened awareness following the escape of two prisoners from the county jail.
“We needed to be a little more mobile. The doors open at the back; they need to be able to get around there,” Lamb said.
“Anything we can do to make it safer and better is good. We are in a situation where we are blessed to do some things that may seem like extras so they are there if needed. Hopefully, we will never need some of these extra security measures,” Dietze said.
School Board Secretary Cooper suggested further research before a decision is made.
After much discussion, Cooper made a motion, which Toliver seconded and the board approved, that the issue of an ATV be tabled for further research.
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