County Waiting to Hear Status of Prevention Resource Officer Grant

The status of federal funding that helps pay for prevention resource officers at five Ohio County schools remains uncertain, but Board of Education President Shane Mallett indicated Monday the school system would continue to support the program regardless of whether the grant application is successful.

Ohio County School Superintendent Dianna Vargo said she’s still waiting to hear back about this year’s application for a Department of Justice grant that funds a portion of the cost to keep a total of six law enforcement officers in five of the county’s schools: Warwood, Triadelphia, Bridge Street and Wheeling middle schools and Wheeling Park High School. There is one Wheeling police officer at each of the five schools, with an Ohio County sheriff’s deputy also stationed at the high school.

Grant funding for the PRO program has declined steadily over the last four years, from $115,000 in 2010 to $100,000 in 2011, $40,000 in 2012 and just $30,000 last year. As the federal funding has disappeared, the Board of Education has picked up the rest of the tab – about $200,000 during the 2013-14 fiscal year, or roughly 87 percent of the total cost.

Although board members don’t know what type of federal assistance to expect this year, they indicated Monday their financial support for the PRO program would continue.

“We’ll do everything in our power to keep you there, that’s for sure,” board President Shane Mallett said, addressing Wheeling police Sgt. Don Miller, who was in the audience. Miller is the PRO at Bridge Street Middle School and coordinates the program countywide.

Mallett asked whether ongoing talks of budget cuts in Wheeling could impact the program. City Manager Robert Herron has proposed reducing the size of the police force from 83 to 72 by leaving the department’s 10 current vacancies unfilled and cutting an additional position through attrition.

Herron has said, though, that the scenario he’s presented to City Council would still keep officers in the schools, and Vargo said her conversations with Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger have indicated the same.

“We’re not affected by whatever is taking place,” Vargo told board members.