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Sheriff’s Office to assign full-time resource officer to Starpoint

LOCKPORT – Starpoint Central School will have a full-time sheriff’s deputy on duty at the school this coming academic year.

The Niagara County Legislature is expected to approve the arrangement Tuesday, after the request for a resource officer sailed through two committees last week.

Starpoint will pay the entire cost of the deputy’s salary and benefits, effective July 1.

Starpoint Superintendent C. Douglas Whelan said the total cost for the district for a full year of coverage is about $92,000.

He said the district used a full-time deputy from 2000 to 2006, but dropped that when it lost grant funding. Since then, the district has been hiring off-duty deputies for security at $20 an hour.

“We just feel we’re much safer with a full-time person here,” Whelan said. “With everything going on in the world, we want to provide the safest place possible for children.”

Sheriff James R. Voutour said some patrol deputies already have expressed interest in the assignment. A newcomer will be hired to fill the patrol slot of whoever is assigned to Starpoint.

The purpose of the resource officer, according to the Legislature resolution, is “to deter criminal behavior and otherwise benefit the student population through positive interactions.”

Increased state aid to schools this year made the job more financially feasible, Voutour said.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea for Starpoint. I think every school district should have one,” the sheriff said.

The police departments in the cities of Niagara Falls and Lockport have assigned resource officers to city schools, but in the towns, Newfane is the only other school district to have a deputy on duty. Voutour said a deputy also is assigned to the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services center in Sanborn.

Niagara Falls and Lockport use resource officers from their city police departments, while North Tonawanda has no such officers.

Police Superintendent E. Bryan DalPorto said Niagara Falls has three resource officers, one assigned to the high school at city expense and two contracted to the middle schools at school expense. When the current high school opened 16 years ago, there were three officers there, paid for by federal grant money that eventually dwindled and disappeared, he said.

Lockport has had a resource officer for eight years, mostly at the high school, with the district and the city sharing the cost. The policeman assigned to the post, Scot C. Snaith, is retiring at the end of the school year next week. He’s been a member of the force for 27 years.

Police Chief Michael F. Niethe said Officer Dennis C. Sobieraski, a 21-year veteran, will take over the assignment this fall.