By Steve Raymond

News Report Staff

Effingham Police Chief Jeff Fuesting talked about the importance of having a School Resource Officer in Unit 40 and found a receptive group of city council members at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

With the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office planning to discontinue the SRO program in Effingham schools at the end of this school year, discussions between Unit 40 and the Effingham Police Department began. County deputies will continue SRO work in other schools in the county.

“I believe it’s important to have an Effingham police officer in the schools,” Chief Fuesting said. “It will improve the direct line of communication between the schools and our department, plus it will help prevent student-on-student crimes and things like bullying.

“It will enhance our partnership and contact with the students, parents and faculty,” he added. “And it will help with the safety of the school district.”

Chief Fuesting has experience leading an SRO program and said he would be actively involved with the local program “if the city elects to move forward.”

The police chief noted there are three officers that have already expressed interest in becoming a School Resource Officer. Chief Fuesting also said proper training would be provided.

“We’re all aware of the school shootings that have been happening around our country,” he noted. “Unfortunately, these things are happening more and more often. Our goal is to prevent that and provide a safe environment.”

Mayor Jeff Bloemker and Commissioners Don Althoff, Merv Gillenwater and Kevin Willis all talked about the importance of the program.

“I appreciate the opportunity to continue the program,” said Mark Doan, Superintendent of Unit 40 schools. “We have to have this program. Our board is committed to moving forward. The kids in this community are better for it.”

The challenge is determining how to fund the SRO program. Mayor Bloemker said he will be working with Doan and Unit 40 to put a proposal together for the next council meeting.

JoAnn Sasse Givens, the Workforce Development Director with the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce, made a presentation to the council on the results of the Life & Work in Effingham County Survey, which the City of Effingham helped sponsor.

Givens reported that 1,961 individuals took the survey. Respondents were asked questions about education, housing, workforce and community.

Economic Development Director Todd Hull informed the council that Thompson Law, LLC, is requesting assistance for a Downtown Rehabilitation Project grant. Phil and Lupita Thompson are planning to renovate the building at 125 E. Jefferson, both inside and outside.

The Downtown Rehabilitation program is for work on the outside of facilities only. The Thompsons are seeking a grant for $10,975, which would be 50 percent of the total cost of $21,950. The council will vote on the request at its next meeting.

In other business:

  • council members granted permission to close a portion of South Walnut Street from West Jefferson to West Shelby Avenue for Martin’s IGA Hoop Shoot on Saturday, April 14, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
  • the council granted permission to close part of Washington Avenue from Third Street to Fourth Street from 8 a.m. Friday, May 4, to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 5; and Fourth Street from Jefferson Avenue to Washington Avenue from 2 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday for the annual Artisan Fair.
  • Chief Fuesting presented Telecommunicator Danielle Flowers with a Chief’s Commendation Award.
  • Commissioners approved the appointment of Larry Micenheimer to the Fire & Police Commission. His three-year term will expire May 1, 2021.