December 14, 2011 - By Joe St. Henry
There is no need for Oakland County Sheriff's Deputy Mick Simkinson to clean out his office at Lake Orion High School this month.
But he may have to make some room for officers of the Lake Orion Police Department.
During a special budget workshop meeting last Thursday, Orion Township Supervisor JoAnn Van Tassel recommended and the Township Board agreed to take money from the township's General Fund and allocate it to the Police Fund budget to pay for Simkinson's police liaison position for all of 2012.
She also recommended moving forward with the mutual aid agreement with the Lake Orion Police Department to provide its officers with limited "policing authority" in district buildings and grounds. This move is part of an effort driven by the Lake Orion Community Schools to include LOPD officers in expanded police liaison services and programming, paid for by the district.
The entire township budget, including provisions for the police liaison position, will be voted on Dec. 19. A public hearing on the budget is on the meeting's agenda.
Next year, Van Tassel said the Township will put a separate proposal on the August Primary Election Ballot to levy a quarter (0.25) mill for the school police liaison activities.
"After listening to the comments from people at this week's board meeting and reading Superintendent Ginopolis' memo on the value of a mutual aid agreement, I realized the importance of the police liaison position," Van Tassel said. "I started to think how we could make this happen."
Van Tassel went on to explain saving this position in the high school is important to the community and she thought this could be an example of collaboration between government entities working together to meet a need.
"I think the entire Board should receive credit and appreciation for agreeing to this," she added.
During the meeting, Trustee Mike Flood concurred with Van Tassel, adding "It would be an injustice to the kids if we don't provide a bridge through next year and then giving the public a chance to vote on the police liaison services later in 2012."
Heidi Kast, the school district's assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment, is very pleased with last week's decisions.
"This is what we hoped would happen, with someone besides the schools finding funding for these services," she said. "We look forward to working with both Oakland County and Lake Orion law enforcement officers. We really need to tap into the resources of both agencies."
Kast said she expects the county sheriff's deputies and village police officers to be able to work together in the schools, just as they do handling other local law enforcement matters. They may very well be sharing the same office at the high school, she added.
"I really don't think it will be that much different than how they work together now, to tell you the truth" she said. "The bottom line is the mutual aid agreement that allows this to happen is what's best for the school district."
Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said he too is pleased the police liaison position will be funded next year.
"I'm glad Mick's position has been saved and we look forward to working with the school district, township and LOPD to provide enhanced security and programming to the township's students and teachers," McCabe said.
Kast said the plan for integrating LOPD into the district's law enforcement efforts will be developed and launched during the first quarter of next year.