By David Yarger
At Tuesday night's North Tonawanda Common Council meeting, the council took another step towards keeping its area schools safe.
The City of North Tonawanda and the North Tonawanda City School District executed a school resource officer agreement, which will post a city police officer in the district to "provide law enforcement presence in the school district in order to promote and provide an atmosphere of enhanced school safety for faculty, staff, students and school visitors."
Aside from the police presence, the agreement will provide a resource to students, teachers, school administrators and parents; provide a confidential counseling source for students who may experience problems inside or outside of school; and provide education in law enforcement when necessary.
With tragedies that have struck certain schools around the United States, the agreement is a step in the right direction towards not only students feeling safer in schools, but parents feeling safe about sending their kids to school.
"We're all glad that's in place finally," Mayor Arthur Pappas said of the agreement. "It's taken a lot of hard work on the part of school committees, city committees, the police department and fortunately everyone has come together with, what I think is going to be a very effective program."
The pact is a one-year agreement and a North Tonawanda police officer began as SRO on the first day of school, Wednesday.
Other council members and a couple residents were pleased by the agreement.
Alderman Austin Tylec said, "I'm probably not the only one that's excited to see that security in the school district will be enhanced with the addition of the SRO. I think it's also exciting that the city and the school worked together to come to this agreement. Hopefully this continues for the years to come."
Alderman Bob Pecoraro said, "The resource officer for the schools is a critical item that we took very seriously and acted upon very quickly and I'm glad to see everything is moving well and in place."
Alderman Mark Berube said, "(I'm) glad we finally have all come to an agreement and gotten it settled. I think that will be something that going forward will be very productive."
Alderman Donna Braun added, "I would like to thank the committee members from the school board and committee members from the city that worked diligently on the contract for the SRO. As we all know, it's the environment that we live in these days and it's very important."
Council President Eric Zadzilka said, "The SRO is very important to not only the city, but our students, the school district, but to the community at large. It wasn't something that we could enter in lightly - it wasn't something that we could rush - it was something that we needed to do our due diligence on, because the safety of our residents and our students is top priority."
In other news:
· A frustrated resident shared her displeasure to the council and made a comment regarding how government in North Tonawanda is managed. Several council members voiced their displeasure towards the comment in closing remarks and said the group has worked hard for the residents.
Berube said, "We don't do things 'back door.' ... We are upfront and open - our meetings are all open, we're now videoing our meetings - you can come upstairs on opposite Tuesdays for the work shop sessions, where we discuss everything in detail, try to get things worked. ... I'm kind of offended by the notion that we're doing things back door or silently when we're not."
Pappas, who rarely raises his voice, was extremely displeased by the comment.
"I feel very upset for you, not for us, upset for you that you can be so ill-informed," Pappas said. "I feel bad you're as ill-informed as you are, because this council - I've been following North Tonawanda politics since I was a teenager and I've followed everything in this city and, you know, I think right now, we have one of the most transparent councils that I have ever seen working together. If you can't see that, I don't understand why.
"You were complaining on several occasions that there was no place to read about things. We have more members of the press now, than ever before. We have the Niagara Reporter, we have the Tribune, we have the Gazette, we have The Sun, we have the Amherst Bee, and you're still complaining. We are videotaping, we have audio - we followed your suggestions, we listened to you and you are very, very negative on your own community. ... I don't know how much more transparent we can be. ... My office door is open every day. I have an office open every day. You have yet to come to ask a question in that office. ... I do think it is discourteous for you to not outright accuse, but to imply that this council is doing things behind your back and behind the citizens back. That's false."
Pappas' comments ended with a light shouting match between the resident, but cooler heads prevailed.
· The Common Council appointed Erin Robinson to the Historic Preservation Committee. Each council member took a moment during closing remarks to congratulate and wish Robinson the best of luck.
· The council also issued a positive declaration regarding the state environment quality review act towards the NT brownfield opportunity area. A positive declaration means there was actions/projects that could cause adverse environmental conditions in the downtown and Niagara River waterfront areas.
· The council granted permission to Platter's Chocolates to host its Platter's Chocolates Spongefest 5K Race at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22. A full course layout can be found at http://www.northtonawanda.org/documents/Council%20Agenda/9.4.18%20cc%20agenda%20pk..pdf, and by scrolling to Page 66 of the agenda.
· The next North Tonawanda Common Council meeting is at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 18.