Pennington County Commissioners approved adding another school resource officer to the payroll.
During their regular meeting Tuesday in the County Administration Building in downtown Rapid City, the board unanimously approved a request from Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom to add another full-time employee to the sheriff's department for a school liaison deputy for the Wall School District.
But it's not a done deal just yet. The county's approval is contingent upon the Wall School Board and the city of Wall approving to pay their portions for the jointly funded position.
Wall Superintendent Dan Baldwin and Wall City Finance Office Carolynn Anderson said the city and the school board still need to agree on how that cost will be divided.
If approved, Thom said the Wall School District and city of Wall would pay a one-time cost of $25,000 for equipment and a vehicle and another $27,500 for liaison and law enforcement services for the remainder of 2019. The sheriff's office would absorb the remaining additional costs within its 2019 budget.
That means, Thom said, he isn't asking for any additional funds for this year. In 2020, though, there will be an increase of $40,000 to account for the county's portion of the position.
Thom said the additional school resource officer, if approved, would benefit the county, city and school district "as our liaisons are able to provide a balance of education, prevention, and enforcement in our schools and build valuable relationships with the youth in our communities."
The sheriff's office participates with the Rapid City Police Department in the School Liaison Program, which assigns officers or deputies to a particular school. During the school year, that officer or deputy helps school administrators and parents, investigates criminal activity, and builds relationships with students.
Baldwin, who spent 15 years at the Douglas School District, said he has seen first-hand the benefits of the school resource officer program and wanted to bring those benefits to the Wall School District.
"I really like to focus on the proactive approach," Baldwin told the Journal after the meeting. "So far, we really haven’t needed a whole lot of law enforcement in Wall schools, and I’d like to keep it that way."
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Thom said the city of Wall had previously expressed interest in having a larger presence from the sheriff's office, making the school resource officer a win-win-win. The deputy will be focused on the school district while school is in session and will be available to help with other law enforcement issues during the summer, which Thom said are busy for law enforcement due to heavy tourism and events like the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
The Wall City Council and Wall School Board are expected to discuss the funding options during their meetings later this month.
Commissioner Mark DiSanto praised the collaborative effort.
"I’d just like to thank Sheriff Thom, the superintendent and the city of Wall for getting together and working this out so it’s a joint, group effort to put this together and to fund it, as well," he said.
Rockerville rezone denied
Commissioners denied the second reading of a controversial rezoning request for about 21 acres of land near Rockerville.
The request was from Borglum Historical Center, Inc., a seasonal museum in Keystone, and owner Duane Pankratz. It sought to rezone two lots from general agricultural district to general commercial district. The property sits just off the northwest side of Highway 16 and is nestled against the homes in Rockerville, an unincorporated community in southwestern Pennington County.
Several homeowners in the community spoke against the rezoning request when it went before the commissioners last month for a first reading. On Feb. 19, the commission voted to continue the second reading to Tuesday's meeting with Commissioner Ron Rossknecht saying he hoped the opposing parties could reach a compromise.
On Tuesday, some landowners and the property owner, represented by Ken Nash at the commission meetings, said they are discussing possible sales of the property. There still wasn't clear consensus, but the Rockerville residents remained opposed to the rezoning. Access to the property and potential safety hazards for people traveling on Highway 16 remained the biggest concerns.
After lengthy discussion, commissioners ultimately denied, without prejudice, the rezone request 4-1, with Commissioner Lloyd LaCroix voting no. Commissioners encouraged the property owner to return with a different request to rezone the property as highway service, offering that as a compromise between the two parties.