HMS gets $800K from Lea Commissioners to boost campus security
Campuses in the Hobbs Municipal School District will be getting a security boost in coming weeks thanks in part to the largess of two Lea County Commissioners.
Each year, depending on the state of the county’s budget, commissioners receive discretionary funds, a pot of money they can use to help entities either within their districts or across the county as a whole. This year, Commissioners Jonathan Sena and Gary Eidson, both of Hobbs, gave a total of $800,000 to HMS to boost security for students and teachers, they said.
The project calls for application of a laminate product manufactured by Safe Haven Defense LLC of Phoenix, Ariz., to exterior windows and doors on campuses throughout the district, Superintendent Gene Strickland said. The product makes the glass more difficult to break, giving school officials the extra minutes to contact law enforcement in a case where someone is attempting to break into the building, said
Commissioner Eidson, who’s also a member and past president of the Hobbs Schools Board of Education.
“I know Gene Strickland has been talking about it over several months, some type of film we could put on the glass to keep it from shattering,” Eidson said. “So if somebody with bad intentions tried to break out the glass, they couldn’t.”
The product “prevents the window from being broken out of the frame,” Strickland said. “The glass will still break. It just won’t fall out of the window frame.”
Strickland would not elaborate on the specifics of where the shatter-proof film would be installed on campuses around the district, citing a “tactical perspective” to the project.
“There are areas on every campus where glass is installed,” Strickland said. “With this vendor we’ve been able to identify key areas on every campus that can benefit from this layer of additional protection.
“Would entry ways be part of that? Yes. Absolutely.”
Eidson told the News-Sun he had some $300,000 remaining in his discretionary account from last year.
Sena said he opted to give all of his current money — $500,000 — toward the project.
The total cost of the project will be just shy of $1 million, Strickland said. The balance will be paid by the district using safety and security funds set aside by the 2023 New Mexico Legislature, Strickland said.
Each year, county commissioners reach out to entities including Hobbs Schools, asking if there are any projects that can be accomplished using their discretionary funding, Eidson and Sena said.
The amount of the discretionary funds commissioners receive can vary year to year, depending on what shape the county’s finances are in, Eidson said. There have been years when commissioners didn’t receive any discretionary funding, he said.
Strickland said he typically forwards a list of so-called “shovel ready” projects, items from the district’s capital improvements list that can get off the ground and finished quickly.
Past projects to receive funding from commissioners include the installation of a new freezer to store food for the HMS district cafeteria, Strickland said. Commissioner Pat Sims, who represents southern areas of the county, has used his funding to purchase a fire truck for the Eunice Fire Department and former Commissioner Rebecca Long funded communications equipment for Lovington Police Department.Sena represents sections of northwest, central and easter Hobbs. Eidson’s district covers the majority of north Hobbs.
Commissioner’s discretionary funding can’t be used to assist individuals or private businesses, Eidson said. All funding must be approved by a majority vote of the Lea County Commission, he said.
Sena, who also serves a youth director for King’s Gate Church in Hobbs, said the project represents “a good partnership” between the Lea County Commission and the Hobbs Public Schools. And, as a youth pastor, protecting young people is close to his heart, he said.
“I talked with the schools and I asked … what are the needs of the community?” Sena said. “I’ve asked where are the greatest needs? They said (improved security in schools) are what our needs are.
“You hate to think about school shootings. The more we can focus on those types of things — security, the safe aspects of our schools — the more school staff and students can think about math and social studies.”
Eidson agreed. He said Sena made the first overtures to Strickland and the school district, then approached him with the idea.
“I decided to help Jonathan (Sena) and the schools … with this project,” Eidson said. The funds were “something I needed to spend. It was just sitting there looking for a project to get spent on and that’s what I decided on.”
One driver of the discretionary funds disbursement is benefiting the greatest number of people for the money spent — getting the most “bang for the buck” — Eidson and Sena said. The security upgrades for Hobbs Schools fits that bill, Strickland said.
“Making the best investment that benefits the greatest amount (of people) is definitely a great way to return those dollars to those communities,” Strickland said. “Any time we can look at a product that improves especially safety and security that’s a huge win for our community all together.”