A police officer could soon be assigned again to Sarah Noble Intermediate School in New Milford.

The town council approved Tuesday in a 5-4 vote to endorse a plan to resume the staffing of a full-time officer at the grades 4-6 schools.

Whether or not the police officer would teach the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program was deemed less important than having an officer as a continued presence in the school.

The Board of Education recently voted to cover the salary of a school resource officer at Schaghticoke Middle from Nov. 1 through July.

Police department budget constraints had prompted the removal this year of both the middle school resource officer Peter DeLouis and Sarah Noble's full-time DARE officer Kevin O'Neill.

The annual cost for the Schaghticoke school resource officer was about $82,000 in salary and benefits; the district is pro-rating that to $55,000.

Town council member Robert Guendelsberger said Tuesday he wants to send a clear message to police Chief Colin McCormack and the school administration that the Sarah Noble post is a priority to replace.

Mr. Guendelsberger made a motion to endorse either a DARE officer, or a position similar to it, for the intermediate school.

Council member Ray O'Brien argued against the motion because he felt it was too vague. His fellow naysayers agreed, most favoring a school resource officer if funding were available.

The DARE program nationally has come under scrutiny for a lack of effectiveness, with school resource officers now more the trend as a means of state students with a law enforcement authority figure, he noted. Fellow council member Mary Jane Lundgren concurred.

Mr. O'Brien said he would prefer a school resource officer, but is not sure this is the time to do it when there is no funding available for such a position.

Chief McCormack two weeks ago said department priorities against a budget that had left two patrol positions unfunded required he redeploy two of the three officers assigned to the schools. High School officer Don Woods was retained.

The school board's decision to pay for an officer at Schaghticoke allowed one to be returned. School board members preferred the town fund the position, yet felt it important enough they adjusted their budget to cover the cost.

Come next budget season, however, several members said they would want the town to cover the cost.

Without funding in his department budget for a full-time officer at Sarah Noble -- whether DARE is the curriculum taught or not -- the chief said assigning a police officer there was not a priority.

On Wednesday, Chief McCormack said he had no comment on the council's action until he has the chance to review the motion and minutes. As this matter was not on the printed agenda, the chief was unaware the issue was to be debated at the council meeting.

Chief McCormack said he will be discussing the matter with Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote.