Cumberland Times-News

March 21, 2013

Commissioners examine their role in school security

Greg Larry
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — The recent request by county board of education members for $500,000 from the county for enhanced school security prompted Commissioner Creade Brodie Jr. to ask if there really is a local security threat that requires the use of such an amount of money.

“I’m going to put you on the spot,” said Brodie to fellow commissioners during a regular meeting of the county commissioners on Thursday.

“The board is asking for $500,000 for a problem I didn’t know existed in Allegany County,” said Brodie.

“I don’t want to throw money at something just to throw money at it,” said Brodie.

Michael McKay, commission president, said that there have been no such incidents of violence in the county.

McKay cited shooting incidents at Columbine, Virginia Tech and most recently Sandy Hook Elementary School as reasons for the school board’s decision to enhance security.

The board wants to hire at least five school resource officers and two mental health professionals.

“I would hate to see educational dollars wasted on hiring some people in a knee-jerk reaction for a plan that you haven’t created yet,” said Commissioner Bill Valentine.

Sixteen officials from law enforcement, the board and local government met Monday to open discussion on setting up a comprehensive plan for school security.

All of the proposals are coming on the heels of both the board and the county’s 2014 budget packages.

McKay spoke about the importance of law enforcement and the mental health component of a comprehensive security plan.

The board will make an official presentation of its plan behind the $500,000 request to the county on Thursday.

“I have reached out to Craig Robertson (Allegany County Sheriff). I recommended he give some form of a recommendation. Public safety is not the charge of the board of education,” said McKay.

McKay feels mental health is a critical issue and wants to get the professional opinion of Dr. Sue Raver at the health department.

“We need to slow down and get a plan,” said McKay.

“I want all children safe. I just didn’t realize it was such an urgency that we’re throwing a half-million dollars at something we’re not sure what were throwing it at,” said Brodie.

In other news from the meeting, several proponents for a new proposal, in which the Allegany County Animal Shelter Management Foundation would take a leading role in managing the county’s animal control operations, spoke to show support for the arrangement.

The county is expected to vote at their next regular meeting whether to give the foundation their nod of approval.

A new, $2.5 million, 11,000 square foot animal shelter is planned for construction adjacent to the current shelter on Furnace Street.

McKay announced he has been appointed by the Maryland Association of Counties for a two-year term on the Rural Maryland Council, a group that supports the concerns of rural counties in the state.

David Eberly, county administrator, said he received a letter from Mrs. Jean Hitchcock, who is the appointment secretary for Gov. Martin O’Malley.

With the terms of Cynthia Jones and Donald Sine on the property tax appeals board expiring June 1, the state wants a list of six nominees for consideration for the new term.

Both Jones and Sine have expressed a desire to stay in their positions; however, the state wants to have other interested individuals apply for consideration.  

“We are hoping to get a group to apply and then we can narrow it down to six for the state,” said McKay.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com