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Ohio County Board of Education President Hoping for Resource Officer Contract ‘Soon’

WHEELING — The Ohio County Board of Education’s president is hoping for a quick resolution to contract negotiations with the Ohio County Commission for prevention resource officers in many of their schools. That contract, which puts Ohio County sheriff’s deputies in those schools, has carried with it a price tag of more than $700,000 annually, and district officials want to make alterations.

Board President David Croft said Wednesday that the board and the county government continue to work through the details of a new contract, which would replace one that had expired in July 2020. Croft and County Solicitor Donald Tennant are handling the negotiations between the sides.

“The Ohio County Board of Education is working with the Ohio County Commission to finalize a prevention resource officer agreement which serves the needs of Ohio County Schools, and reimburses the county commission for its out-of-pocket expenses,” Croft said Wednesday. “I’m confident we will have the agreement finalized soon.”

Croft did not say when asked Wednesday what were specific sticking points in the contract.

The resource officers, or PROs, had been working in the schools since the contract expired, but sheriff’s deputies did not return to those schools Tuesday. PROs work in schools to mentor youth and help provide a safer school environment.

The school district expects, based on a first-quarter invoice from the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department, to pay as much as $562,000 this year for the department to provide six prevention resource officers in its school buildings, school district business manager Steven Bienek said.

The district pays another $150,000 to the Wheeling Police Department for three officers to serve as PROs.

The school district wants to make changes to its contract with Ohio County. Because that deal hasn’t been finalized, the county hasn’t received any payments this school year, Bieniek said.

All of the money comes from the school district’s general fund, Bieniek said.

Tennant addressed Ohio County commissioners this week, and said the school district wants to reduce the number of deputies provided by the county to the school district from six to five officers. They also do not want the responsibility of paying their share of the deputies’ salaries during the summer months when school is not in session.

Lastly, the school district wants the discretion to reassign the deputies in the event of an emergency. Howard indicated to the commissioners he would not give them authority over his deputies.

The sheriff’s department provides six deputies to Ohio County Schools to serve as PROs — two at Wheeling Park High School, one at Warwood School, one each at Middle Creek and Madison elementary schools and one who goes between Woodsdale and West Liberty elementary schools. The Wheeling Police handle Bridge Street, Triadelphia and Wheeling middle schools. The second agreement with the city of Wheeling has been signed, according to Bieniek.

Ohio County Sheriff Tom Howard said Tuesday night that deputies would return to the schools as PROs when the county and the school district iron out their differences.

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