School Safety Act initiative is announced by county officials
by Shane Dunaway
Talladega City Police Chief Alan Watson discusses the benefits of the School Safety Act during a press conference held Friday in Oxford. The School Safety Act would help put school resource officers in 24 schools in the Talladega City, Talladega County and Sylacauga City school systems.
OXFORD — Talladega and Calhoun County officials held a press conference Friday in Oxford to announce a joint legislation initiative called the School Safety Act.

The two bills seek to propose an amendment to Alabama’s Constitution providing funding to pay for school resources officers in all schools within the counties as well as funding radio alert notification equipment and funding support for general public safety.

The funding for these initiatives comes by way of a $3.5 million property tax which must be approved by legislators, then by voters in each county during a referendum in June 2013.

Of the $2.5 million earmarked for funding SRO positions in each county, Calhoun County is projected to bring in $1.38 million per year while Talladega County expects nearly $1.13 million.

Talladega City Police Chief Alan Watson said currently there are no SRO positions within the city schools and only two for the county schools.

The School Safety Act would place SROs in 24 schools in the Talladega City, Talladega County and Sylacauga.City school systems.

According to a release from Kevin Jenkins of Alabama Regional Comunications Systems, if the School Safety Act is approved by legislators and voters, a homeowner with property appraised at $100,000 can expect to pay $35 per year to support the act, the equivalent of two soft drinks a month for school safety.

“For 10 cents a day, we can place a certified police officer in all our schools in Calhoun and Talladega Counties,” said Bill Partridge, Oxford police chief. “We’ll be able to provide public service and public safety communications to all police, fire, (emergency medical services) and volunteer fire services.”

Partridge mentioned the recent hostage standoff in Midland City to help connect the audience with another advantage of the School Safety Act.

“This will also keep radios and communication devices in all of our school buses,” Partridge said. “Calhoun and Talladega County are very unique where we have the capability to communicate with our bus drivers while they are en route to and from school.”

The act provides nearly $4 million annually to support the operations, maintenance and future needs of the public safety communication system.

“If anyone knows anything about active shooters, they know time is of the essence,” Partridge said. “The quicker law enforcement can get there, the quicker they can take care of the problem.”

The act is also expected to generate $396,000 in Calhoun County and $325,000 in Talladega County for funding other critical safety programs left to the counties to determine needs as needed.

“I know no one likes taxes,” Partridge said. “I don’t like taxes and I don’t think anybody in the room does. But we have to step up to the plate and do what’s right to keep our children, police officers, firemen, EMS workers and our volunteers safe.”

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© 2013