School Officials Discuss Road Slip, Departure of Brooke Resource Officer

Brooke County school officials on Monday voiced concerns about a road used by many students traveling to and from Brooke High School.

Jim Piccirillo, board president, said there were rumors of a student being involved in an auto accident on Rockdale Road, which further fueled concerns about a slip along the steep road.

Piccirillo said school buses aren’t using the road, but he and others are concerned about students who use it as a shortcut between the high school and the Hooverson Heights area. He said the board plans to write the state Division of Highways to request flashing yellow lights or other measure to alert drivers of the road’s condition. In the meantime, Brooke County commissioners recently were asked about repairs to the slip and said the Division of Highways, which maintains the road, plans to secure it with pilings.

School board officials also heard of the departure of Brooke County sheriff’s Deputy Larry Palmer, the prevention resource officer at the high school, and expressed concern about whether that position there will be maintained by the sheriff’s department.

“We were one of the first counties to have a prevention resource officer and not to have one would be disturbing,” Piccirillo said.

Recently the school board agreed, at the request of Sheriff Chuck Jackson, to allocate $20,000 for an officer at the high school, supplementing a $20,000 grant awarded to the sheriff’s department by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Palmer confirmed he will be retiring from the sheriff’s department in September after 23 years in law enforcement to accept a position elsewhere. Palmer said members of the sheriff’s department haven’t received a raise in 10 years, and the county commission has changed employees’ contributions for their insurance, citing declining revenue.

Jackson said the grant requires 35 hours of manpower a week, but he may call upon the deputy to respond to various incidents if they arise.

Prevention resource officers, who also may be city police, are trained to serve as liaisons between schools and law enforcement, speak to students about related issues and respond to outside threats to their schools.

Until last year there were prevention resource officers at the middle schools also. But they were cut this year because grants weren’t awarded for them. In recent years Brooke County has seen a reduction in state funding for its PROs, with other communities competing for the grants also.

Jackson said he approached the Follansbee and Wellsburg police chiefs about coordinating a police presence at the middle schools though it may not be full-time.

Because $50,000 was allocated for the officers in the school operating levy approved by voters, the school board has agreed to set aside the remaining $30,000 for other officers when the sheriff’s department is able to provide them.