MARSHALL - A day after the Marshall School Board discussed a one-day reduction in assigned hours for the district's school resource officer, members of the Marshall City Council said they wanted the officer back on duty.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday evening, council members voted to restore the school resource officer position to the full amount of work hours stipulated in an agreement between the city and school district. In the meantime, they directed city, school and law enforcement officials to come up with other possible solutions for a temporary staffing shortage in the Marshall Police Department.
Marshall Public Safety Director Rob Yant and Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig discussed police staffing issues during the council's regular meeting.
"I strongly support the (resource officer) program," Yant said. However, the Marshall Police Department is currently down two full-time officers and is in need of temporary help to cover patrols. In reassigning the MPS resource officer one day a week, it was hoped the officer could take on other duties while new patrol officers are hired and trained.
Yant said other Marshall law enforcement officers, including investigators, were also taking on more patrol duties until new staff could be hired.
"It is not a budgeting issue," Martig said, "but rather an issue of staffing that the city is facing." He said the decision to temporarily reduce resource officer hours was one that had been planned before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings drew heightened attention to the topic of school security.
Yant said he worked with the resource officer, so they "would substantially be working the same schedule." The resource officer normally spends some time at each school in the district, he said.
Council member Mike Boedigheimer criticized the decision to "arbitrarily cut back" resource officer hours by 20 percent. The school resource officer program was formed by an agreement between the city of Marshall and the school district. Policy decisions affecting it should be brought to the council, he said.
Boedigheimer moved that the cut hours be restored immediately. However, the motion failed in a 3-3 vote. Council member Glenn Bayerkohler abstained from the vote, saying he didn't feel he could take action without knowing the terms of the partnership agreement.
While the council members needed to be able to see the agreement, the city and school district needed to work together to help address police staffing needs, Bayerkohler said.
"I think we need to go hand-in-hand with the school on this one," he said.
Bayerkohler moved that the officer be temporarily brought back to the regular schedule under the agreement, and that city and school officials meet to discuss the issue before the council's next meeting in January. Council member John DeCramer seconded the motion but also urged the council to keep in mind the safety needs of Marshall police officers and residents.
Bayerkohler's motion passed unanimously.