By NICOLE GUGINO
OBSERVER Assistant News Editor
At the recent Silver Creek Village Board meeting resident Anna Frederickson spoke up about the lack of funding for the School Resource Officer program in light of Sandy Hook Elementary shootings. In doing so she called out Trustee Thomas Harmon, saying he was against funding the program.
Harmon sat down with the OBSERVER recently to set the record straight on several issues residents have taken up with the town board.
Frederickson made the comment, "Mr. Harmon mentioned at a previous board meeting that no other school has a School Resource Officer and didn't think that we needed one either, because there was no money to fund it. I guess he feels nothing of this magnitude could happen in Silver Creek."
He clarified that contrary to what Frederickson said, he believes safety at the school is very important.
"Anna made a comment of what I was thinking and that's not what I think. My son went to Silver Creek school and the welfare of the students there is very important. It was an unfair statement," he said in an interview.
Harmon added the decision not to fund an additional 8 hours of coverage at the school, as was done in the past, was a board decision and was made due to budget constraints.
"It has always been very important to me to have an officer there ... but with the current budget there just wasn't funding for that extra eight hours from the village taxpayers and that was a board decision," he said. "I would love to see all schools have an SRO. It is a very proactive program for dealing with problems in schools. ... The reason most don't is because of budget constraints."
Harmon said he had previously pointed out that eight hours of coverage was paid by school taxes and another eight hours was covered by village taxes, which seems like double taxation for village residents. However, his response with Mayor Kurt Lindstrom and Police Chief Timothy Roche was to meet with Hanover Supervisor Todd Johnson and school Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich to work out the best way to fund the program.
The village currently provides a village officer for 10 hours per week at Silver Creek school.
He added in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, the board will be working hard with all the entities involved to fund the program, however the budget dictates what is funded.
Harmon did commend Frederickson on her involvement in the community.
"Anna Frederickson has taken more interest in the village since being a public citizen than when she was a trustee," he added.
The Silver Creek Village Board has also had several residents with other concerns come before the board.
Frederickson has also been vocal on the issue of holding the owner of the demolished Central Avenue building responsible for the $38,000 cost of the demolition.
Harmon explained why the board has not made a comment on this issue is because the official letters have been sent and now the matter is in the hands of the village's and owner's attorneys. He added this does not mean the village will "sweep the cost under the rug," and is actively seeking a resolution to the situation.
Harmon said the village is also actively pursuing its FEMA funding for the Department of Public Works building destroyed in the 2009 flood and moved to the George Bentges building after. He said he has read Gowanda is receiving help from Sen. Charles Schumer and said he and the board are trying to utilize resources to find out the status of its reimbursements.
He also addressed the issue of garbage bags, of which the proposed switch to stickers has raised concerns.
Harmon brought up the topic several months ago and since then has had many comments about the cost of similar bags at local stores in addition to the cost of a sticker. Even proposing a lower price for a sticker, Trustee Amy Romanik said the village would end up losing $10,000 revenue. Harmon countered the village would more than make up for the difference in the time employees would not take rolling garbage bags.
"We are not in the garbage bag business but with how many hours we are spending rolling garbage bags, we are certainly in the garbage bag business and it isn't in anyone's job description. I think we can be more productive and proactive going forward with working habits," he said, adding a sticker system has worked in Gowanda for many years.
When asked about the possibility of individuals privately contracting for garbage pickup in the future, he said it depends on the budget.
"That may be introduced at budget time because the tax cap is looming, it's a possibility. A lot of villages don't have it ... it's a courtesy and I think its great to have that courtesy but when its not cost effective then we need to take a second look at it," he said.
The Silver Creek Village Board will meet for its regular meeting and workshop Jan. 7.
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