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Bulloch BOE to discuss annexing two Brooklet-area schools

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    Bulloch County Board of Education members plan to discuss the possibility of annexing two Brooklet-area schools into the city, but Brooklet  City council members have not addressed the idea, said Brooklet Mayor Joe Grooms.
    Bulloch County School Superintendent Dr. Lewis Holloway said Wednesday school board officials will discuss the topic tonight during a regular session meeting in the Central Office board room at 6:30 p.m.
    The item is on the agenda, slated for discussion after board members review an agreement with the City of Brooklet regarding a safety resource officer for Southeast Bulloch High School.
    Grooms said city council members voted 3-2 two months ago to allow a Brooklet Police officer to work off-duty at the school, to be paid privately by the school board. But he said he disapproved of the idea, which was instilled by former Brooklet police chief Donnie Mincey "without it even being voted on."
    "We didn't vote to put him there. (Former police chief) Donnie Mincey put him there on his own."
    Grooms and two council members, whom he did not identify, do not support the idea of Brooklet providing school security. However, three other council members overruled and agreed to allow the officer to remain in the off-duty position.
    The concern about having a city officer working at the school, although off-duty from the city police department at the time, involves possible lawsuits, Grooms said.
    That's why the school board is interested in having the City of Brooklet annex Southeast Bulloch High and Middle schools, Holloway said.
    "We are paying a safety resource officer for Southeast Bulloch High School," he said.
    Brooklet city officials and the city attorney Hugh Hunter expressed concern over the officer using city equipment, including uniforms and police cars, while working at the school, he said.
    Annexing the schools into the city would help protect the city in case of a lawsuit, and would be only a formality, he said.  The move would not affect voting or land value, and annexation does not have to be contiguous, meaning land between the current city limits and the school campuses would not have to be annexed, he said.
    But Grooms disagreed, saying all the land in between the two must be included in the annexation.
    He said Wednesday the school board has not yet discussed annexation with the city council.
    "They better discuss it with us first. The Brooklet City Council hasn't discussed it," he said. "It (providing school security) is t he county's responsibility and I don't see how they can expect the City of Brooklet  to be responsible."
    Grooms said he asked Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson about providing a deputy to work as the school's security resource officer, and Anderson told him he could not spare a deputy for that purpose.
    Anderson was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
    Brooklet city council members who voted to continue allowing a city police officer to work off duty at the schools " voted against the city attorney's advice," he said.
    Although the officer is off duty and working for pay from the school system, he is still " using our vehicle, our uniforms, and a certified police officer for the City of Brooklet," he said. "We're still responsible" in case of a lawsuit, although " the school board would be responsible first."
    Holloway said annexing the school properties would only be a " formality" and said having a school safety resource officer on campus is " important in protection of our students."
    There are safety resource officers at both Southeast Bulloch High and Middle schools as well as Statesboro High School, he said.
    "The  safety resource officers have worked out very well," he said. " There is less discipline, less fighting. People see a police unit and know students are being protected."
    Holloway said the idea is still in the discussion phase and school officials are checking to make sure annexing the schools won't adversely affect anything.
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