Llodra Reports To Newly Seated Council On School Security Developments

It was an odd image, seeing Jeff Capeci seated at an audience microphone during the public comments portion of Wednesday's Legislative Council meeting.

But as he was briefly honored by newly elected council Chair Mary Ann Jacob for his years of elected service, the former chairman had nothing but congratulations to offer.

"I look forward to following everything you do," Mr Capeci said to the 11 members who gathered for the first meeting of their new two-year term. Council member Lisa Romano arrived later.

"I encourage you to ask the right questions and make the right choices," Mr Capeci said to the slate of officials, including newcomer Anthony Filiato.

In recognizing Mr Capeci, Ms Jacob said she admired his fair and balanced decision making, and that she had learned much watching his leadership style.

First Selectman Pat Llodra recalled her early days on the council in 2005, when she sat next to Mr Capeci, another newcomer to a council with only two incumbents.

"We had many off the record conversations trying to figure out what the heck was going on and what we were supposed to be thinking," she said. "It was a learning process for me sitting next to Jeff listening to his reasoning and thinking."

Mrs Llodra then acknowledged that Mr Capeci has agreed to work with her on a new project, "so he won't be going far."

She then presented him with a commemorative Newtown plate as a token of thanks.

"I will miss it - in some regards I will not," Mr Capeci said, before the meeting turned to Mrs Llodra's report to the panel, which centered on a number of developments regarding school security.

She reviewed how the town had been handling compensation to the police currently providing local school security. Mrs Llodra said while the town failed to qualify for one federal law enforcement grant program, it received another that would nearly compensate the entire cost for those resources.

She told the council that two Monroe officers handle in-school duties at the Monroe location of Sandy Hook School, while a third handles exterior responsibilities. Those officers are funded by part of a grant through December 31, 2013.

Then Mrs Llodra reviewed a document showing the total law enforcement cost to cover all Newtown and the Monroe school facilities through the end of the current school year would be $370,000. Grants will cover $182,000, and the balance of $188,000 coming from contingency.

She said Newtown will cover the approximately $70,000 for two Monroe officers at the Sandy Hook/Chalk Hill facility through the end of the school year, and Monroe has agreed to cover the cost of a third officer through June 2014.

"That covers this year, we are absolutely confident there will be no gap in services or change to the level of services," Mrs Llodra said.

She then discussed her trips to North Branford and Enfield observing those towns' school security officer programs. She said the two towns had different ways of managing their security forces, but both employed former police officers who were armed, carried their own benefits, and work at hourly rates between $20 - $26.

Responding to a question from Councilman Dan Amaral, Mrs Llodra clarified the officers would only work during the school year. And said the budget for those officers, if the program was adopted locally, would likely be shared between the town and school district budgets.

She also warned the council to be prepared for new security expenses in the upcoming town and school budgets, that would include start-up costs like uniforms and equipment. She clarified that these officers would not need or use town-owned vehicles in their duties.

The next subject involved the town's pending application for a two-phase US Department of Justice grant. She said because of the complexity of the application, the process had been drawn out since last March.

Mrs Llodra explained the large municipal grant focuses in one phase, on reimbursing for police services, mental health and other immediate crisis response. The second piece is a consequence grant.

"The consequence grant compels the town to describe what services are anticipated that are connected to the event, and that will carry on over time," Mrs Llodra said. "Think about a sustainable model of mental health, building hardening, and additional public safety concerns."

The first selectman said town officials had a good meeting the previous week with federal representatives, and learned that the building hardening costs portion of the grant will be approved, along with the anticipated costs for mental health support.

She was not as certain about additional compensation for police services, and was confident the federal officials would advocate for those funds as well on behalf of the community.

At the top of the meeting, Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia officiated the opening as part of her Charter mandated responsibility at the beginning of each new council term. She convened the meeting and called for nominations for a chair.

George Ferguson nominated Ms Jacob for the post and she was unanimously elected chair. Neil Chaudhary was subsequently nominated for vice-chair and was unanimously endorsed by his 10 colleagues in attendance.

Carey Schierloh was then appointed to be the council clerk.

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