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Annexation would displace Southview officer

If Sylvania successfully annexes 259 acres along Sylvania Avenue and King Road, it would bring $57,000 annually in payroll taxes from Southview High School employees and put a township police officer out of a job.

Kevin Graber has worked at the high school since 1999 as its school resource officer, but as a township officer he would no longer be in the school if it became part of the city.

And although the city plans to work with school officials about getting a Sylvania officer if the annexation is approved, Mr. Graber, a 1993 Southview graduate, wants to stay put.

“I think I would do a disservice if I just pulled up stakes,” he said. “I owe it to the kids to see them through the years.”

He has built a rapport with the teachers and faculty who have watched his transformation from student to resource officer. Students call him “Officer Kevin.”

“I'm less intimidating than an older officer that would go in there,” Mr. Graber said.

Among his responsibilities in addition to handling security are gong into classrooms to warn about the dangers of drugs and drinking and driving.

Mr. Graber doesn't support the city's annexation attempts for several reasons.

“The majority of the students who go to Southview live in the township and we are losing that,” he said. “They will see a blue uniform [Sylvania officer] in the school that's unfamiliar with them. Those are the same kids who grow up and learn the township police. They would be less apt to come to an officer because of the rapport we have gained with them during their life.”

Tips from students have solved crimes in the township and prevented others. “They tell me things they can't tell their own counselors,” he said.

Mr. Graber also has duties at Timberstone and Arbor Hills junior high.

The city sees annexation as a growth opportunity for them.

“Things happen and things change,” said Sylvania councilwoman Barbara Sears, who is chairwoman of the zoning and annexation committee. “Clearly, the township isn't going to pay for an officer in the city.”

The city has a school resource officer in Northview High school and would also have one at Southview, she said.

“I know he enjoys working over there and they enjoy working with him,” she said. “But, in the long run it's the right thing to do. The city needs the opportunity to expand and grow. Annexation is the way to do that,” she said. “It's a shame he could be displaced. I don't want to make that a small issue because for him it's a big issue.”

Mr. Graber, who has been an officer since 1998, also has an assignment with the department's new motorcycle patrol program.

In a recent proposal, township trustees redrew the annexation area and left out the high school. But city officials are opposed to that proposal because they believe it would start the annexation process over and they questioned the area's legality.

School officials have stayed out of the annexation fight.

Sylvania police chief Gerald Sobb knows of several candidates for the position at Southview.

“I would not put a brand new person over there,” Mr. Sobb said.

“I think someone who is going to interact with high school students needs several years as a police officer to understand the role...I would let the department know there is an opening,” he said. “I think we have three or four officers who would be interested in that. It's totally my choice on assignment like this.”

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