School resource officers to begin duty next week
Last modified: Feb. 28
Three newly hired Ashe County Sheriff’s deputies will begin duty next week as school resource officers at Blue Ridge, Mountain View and Westwood elementary schools.
Deputies Kevin Roark, Dean Eldreth and Chris Roten were hired this week by the sheriff’s office, said Ashe Sheriff James Williams.
Base pay for the deputies will be $31,700. These funds will be ascertained from the county’s general fund and a line item for the additional SROs will be detailed during the county’s upcoming budget planning process.
The implementation of the officers will come two weeks after the Ashe County Board of Commissioners approved the hiring of the deputies to provide security at the elementary schools.
The sheriff’s office currently, and has for several years, provided SRO protection at the county’s consolidated high school and middle school.
The decision to put SROs in the elementary schools arose due to the tragic school shooting at Newtown, Conn. in December 2012.
Eldreth, a highly decorated Army helicopter pilot of the Vietnam era, will be assigned to Blue Ridge Elementary School, said Williams.
Roark, who has worked previously with West Jefferson Police Department, will begin his duty at Westwood Elementary.
Williams said Roten, who had previously worked with the sheriff’s office before working with his father’s insurance business, has been assigned to Mountain View Elementary.
Williams said he expects a smooth transition with the introduction of officers at the schools and how the students respond.
“They’ve got somewhat use to it already,” said Williams. “Ever since Sandy Hook, we’ve had deputies at the schools during the mornings and afternoons, as well as for occasional drop-ins.”
Williams also believes the students will feel “safer” with the SROs around and believes they will bond quickly with the officers.
“It will be a security blanket for everyone,” said Williams.
Startup costs for the SROs will be in the neighborhood of $85,000 to $100,000, said Williams.
Commissioner Gerald Price had previously stated the additional SROs would cost the county approximately $5 million over a 10-year period.
Williams said this is not accurate.
“We estimate the cost to be around $50,000 per officer or $150,000 a year,” said Williams. “That will include salaries, benefits, clothing, cars and maintenance, gas and phone.”
Additionally, Williams expects that the vehicles for each officer will need to be rotated out every three years at a cost of $25,000 per car.
Williams expects the squad cars for the new deputies to arrive within the next two months.
Until then, the deputies will be arriving to the schools in their personal vehicles.
During previous joint meetings between the school system, sheriff’s office and board of commissioners, officials have noted that having a police car in the front parking lot of each school could serve as a deterrent to a potential shooter.