Sen. Marsh willing to take a closer look at school safety act
by Brian Anderson
Officials hope a local state senator will change his mind about legislation that would upgrade the public safety radio system and pay for resource officers in schools.

In a meeting with Anniston Star editors Friday, Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge said he had spoken to Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston. According to Partridge, the county’s leading legislator tentatively supports the School Safety Act.

“We spoke for about 30 minutes and he said, ‘Get a final draft to (state Rep.) Randy Wood and I’ll work with him on it,’” Partridge said.

Marsh said by phone Monday that after talking to Partridge and others who were concerned about his prior dismissal of the bill, he agreed to take a closer look at the legislation.

“I’m not saying I’ve changed my mind, but I don’t want to slam the door on it either,” Marsh said.

Marsh said he hoped to look at other ways money might be raised for the act as well as what can be done using existing money from the budget.

Partridge said Marsh’s biggest objection to the act was a proposed tax increase. The act would increase property taxes in Calhoun and Talladega counties to bring in $7 million annually for the radio system and to put resource officers in every school.

The bill, still in rough draft form according to Calhoun County Administrator Ken Joiner, would require residents of Talladega and Calhoun counties to vote on the constitutional amendment to raise taxes.

If approved by voters, the annual tax for owners of property would rise by 3.5 mills, or about $35 per year for a home valued at $100,000.

The radio system was set up at federal expense in the 1990s to allow local agencies to better respond to emergencies that could have arisen from the chemical weapons stockpile at the Anniston Army Depot. Funding for the radios went away after the last chemical weapons were destroyed in 2011. School systems in the two counties also use the radio system.

Marsh told The Star on Wednesday he opposed the act because it called for a property tax increase on residents.

Members of the Alabama Regional Communication System board of directors, who oversee the radio system, said they received support for the act from local legislators at a meeting earlier in the week. Marsh, and Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, were unable to attend the meeting. Boyd told The Star earlier this week that she also supports the measure.

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.
© 2013