Packsaddle Elementary School in Kingsland was the site of an active shooter training course for Highland Lakes law enforcement officers in June. Instructor and Sunrise Beach Police Sgt. Steve Harris watches an officer go through a hallway-clearing exercise. Area schools have increased safety practices in recent months, and Granite Shoals approved the hiring of a school resource officer for Highland Lakes Elementary on Oct. 11. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey
The Granite Shoals City Council approved an interlocal agreement between the city and Marble Falls Independent School District for a school resource officer at Highland Lakes Elementary in Granite Shoals. The vote came during the council’s regular meeting Oct. 11.
Granite Shoals Police Chief John Ortis presented the contract to the council along with a hiring recommendation, but the job also will be posted on job search sites.
The officer’s salary of $76,036 was incorporated into Granite Shoals’ approved fiscal year 2022-23 budget. MFISD will cover $58,980 because most of the officer’s work will take place at the elementary school, which is part of the district. The city will pay $17,056 of the total contract.
The contract was drafted and revised by a group of Granite Shoals officials and staff, including Chief Ortis, Capt. Chris Decker, Interim City Manager Peggy Smith, and Municipal Judge Frank Reilly. The MFISD Board of Trustees approved it during its regular meeting Tuesday, Oct. 17, solidifying the deal.
“In light of recent events that are going on around the country, school safety is our number one concern,” Ortis told DailyTrib.com
The school resource officer will be stationed at Highland Lakes Elementary during the academic year and return to normal patrol duties over the summer and long holidays.
Before the vote, Councilor Samantha Ortis asked whether she should recuse herself being that Chief Ortis is her husband.
City Attorney Joshua Katz explained that recusal is usually reserved for situations in which the councilor’s finances or investments are directly affected by city policy.
“Our ethics ordinance generally describes recusal as matters when you have a personal business interest or financial interest,” he said. “Our ethics ordinance is really directed toward finances.”
Councilor Steve Hougen put forth a hypothetical in which Councilor Ortis might have to separate herself from her husband’s decisions if the council disagreed with whom he chose to hire for the position.
Councilor Ron Munos stepped in to clarify that Chief Ortis and Interim City Manager Smith have the autonomy to hire whomever they want and council approval isn’t strictly necessary as long as it is within the budget.
Hougen ultimately agreed with Chief Ortis’ assessment and Councilor Ortis’ participation in the vote.
“Chief Ortis, I think this is a good idea, and I congratulate you for pushing it through, especially with the concerns in our school yards,” Hougen said. “I think the presence of a police officer, just the presence, would add a lot to the feeling of security for the parents and the children.”
He then moved to approve the contract, and the council voted unanimously in favor of the deal.
“I appreciate your leadership and your judgment in selecting a school resource officer,” Mayor Aaron Garcia said.
Chief Ortis said he had a specific officer in mind for the position, citing their prior school resource officer experience, SWAT training, and extensive education.
“I am looking for the best of the best,” he told DailyTrib.com.