Upshur County Sheriff David Coffman addresses Upshur County Commissioners about hiring a third Prevention Resource Officer at Thursday morning's meeting.

Commission approves hire of third supervisory PRO officer, who would work full-time in Upshur County Schools

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission approved the hiring of a third Prevention Resource Officer for Upshur County schools while working out the details of the memorandum of understanding with the county board of education and the sheriff’s office.

Sheriff Dave Coffman attended Thursday’s commission meeting to request the approval to hire a third PRO officer to work within Upshur County schools. He said they currently have two officers, one at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, Cpl. Dewaine Linger and another at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, Cpl. Rodney Rolenson.

“These guys are working their tail ends off, and the school is pleased with what they are doing but there is a need, and I support the need. There’s a request for a third PRO officer,” Coffman said.

He said he’s come up with a plan to make this request happen by keeping his current deputies on the road.

“I have a plan to make this happen,” Coffman said. “This plan will keep our current road deputies on the road. That’s been the biggest issue with me – there’s no way that I could take an additional trained officer off the road and put them into school. That’s no disrespect to the schools.”

His plan is to keep all his road deputies in their current positions by filling the vacant chief deputy of administration post.

“I want to fill this position. This is a non-civil service position; this is a supervisory position,” Coffman said. “If you support me, this person will answer directly to the sheriff and work hand-in-hand with our schools and they will oversee our PRO officer program in our schools.”

He said it was his understanding the commission and board of education have discussed the hiring of another officer recently and the current agreement on the table was that the school will pay the salary and benefits for the position and the county will be responsible for training, uniforms and transportation.

“My budget can and will absorb the cost of the training and uniform without any additional requests for additional money,” Coffman said.

Upshur County Commission President Terry Cutright said he has talked to Assessor Dustin Zickefoose about obtaining a vehicle.

“I have talked to our assessor and he’s got an extra car,” Cutright said. “If he can replace it with the truck from his evaluation fund, then he will give it to the board of education for this PRO officer.”

Coffman said he’d been working on that plan but had not yet finalized it. Coffman explained how this position may be different from the two current PRO officer position.

“The difference between this position and our two-current position under the MOUs that we do, annually, our current PRO officers is, they are in school when school is in session,” he explained. “When school is not in session, they report to the sheriff’s office for other duties.”

He said this third officer will be a supervisory position and the agreement with the board of education is that this person will be hired to work 365 days a year.

“It’s going to be their responsibility to oversee and help our current PRO officers in any way they can, and then when [school is] not in session, this officer will work with the schools and work directly with whatever projects they have going on,” Coffman said.

The new PRO officer position would begin Aug. 1 and the first day of school will be Aug. 13.

Cutright asked if this officer will report to school during Christmas and Thanksgiving breaks.

Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said the third PRO officer would follow the school’s academic calendar.

“He will follow our calendar, so those would be his days off during our vacation that’s built into our school calendar,” Stankus said. “We come to school 180 days and then, we’re going to have summer school, so that’s another 30 days in the year.”

Coffman said he saw a need to add this third officer to the schools.

“I think it’s important that we put this third officer in our schools,” Coffman said. “We all know that there are some difficult days, and a lot of our young people or students are struggling and anytime that we’re in a position to help someone, if we have the resources available at all, I think we need to really look at getting those resources for our students.”

Commissioner Sam Nolte made a motion to approve the hiring of the PRO officer and continue working out the details of the MOU between the board and the sheriff’s department. Commissioner Kristie Tenney seconded the motion. Cutright told Stankus they would work on getting the vehicle, but Zickefoose would need to replace the vehicle they want to provide them with first.

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