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Vermilion officials pleased, grateful at levy passage


VERMILION — Vermilion Schools is “very pleased and very grateful” to district voters who approved an additional levy for school safety and security in Tuesday’s election, Superintendent Phil Pempin said Wednesday.

Issue 13, a 0.68-mill levy that will raise $300,000 a year for the next five years to improve school security measures, was passed by a close margin by voters in Lorain and Erie counties.

The issue passed in Lorain County by a final unofficial tally of 932 to 926, and in Erie County by a final but unofficial tally of 2,119 to 2,049, according to election results. It will cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $24 annually.

The money will be used to add a school resource officer and mental health therapist in the district, as well as for upgrades to security cameras, door locks and entrances at the district’s three school buildings.

“Those are the three basic areas we have committed to using this money for, and we will fulfill that promise,” Pempin said. “We’re working hard to do what the community wants.”

Pempin said the district didn’t meet with any negativity in the community over the proposal, “so we’re thinking it’s more of an economic decision for the people who didn’t give it a yes vote,” he said.

The issue was a “community-generated concern more than anything,” following the February shooting deaths of 17 students and staff at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Pempin said.

“Not that we weren’t concerned about it. But when you get these shootings, it elevates people’s thoughts about that, so that’s what happened in March” when community members approached the district about school safety, he said.

The district also is spending the money with a local firm, using SafeHarbor Security & Fire of Vermilion as its vendor, Pempin said.

One of the high-tech security tools, the Raptor Visitor Management System, scans driver’s licenses against databases of registered sex offenders or customized databases of banned visitors or guests. Biometric fingerprint scanners for entry into school buildings also are in the works, Pempin said.

Thumbprint scans are “a more foolproof system than when you’re passing out keycards, which can be misplaced or loaned out,” he said. “We’re always evaluating what we’ve got and (asking) can we make it better?”

Pempin said it is too early to tell whether the district will seek renewal of the levy in another five years. The district will make what improvements it can and re-evaluate its needs down the line, he said.

“We hope that society and things change” when it comes to school violence, Pempin said, “and we’ll gauge the pulse of things as we get closer to that time and see how things are and how it affects the district and the community.”

Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7129 or do’ Follow him at @daveobrienCT on Twitter.

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