County 911 assessment says employee retention should be focus

Both area 911 dispatch centers have received the results of a state conducted assessment of their respective operations.
Ray County 911 dispatch released the results of their assessment late last week after board members had a chance to review the document and make comments.
The Richmond 911 dispatch report has not been released yet, but an official request was made yesterday.
The only concern in the county report was employee retention. The office staff consists of eight full-time and seven part-time personnel in addition to Director Scott Enss. The report says the average years of service for an employee is less than two years, but Enss said since last summer when the information for the assessment was collected his office’s staff has stabilized. State Director of Information Security R.D. Porter produced the report and said the per hour rate for employees in most cases is not the issue.
Enss disagrees. He said the wages his department is allowed to pay are not great, but said his staff likes their jobs and in an economic downturn jobs are becoming harder to come by. The report also stressed the importance for retention because at least eight weeks of training are needed to sit in a dispatch chair.
The workload at the office has increased as well. Board member Norm Hemmerling, former Lawson Police Chief, told board members the caseload at the courthouse has increased sharply in the last five years.
In turn, the workload has trickled down to the dispatch center, which has the responsibility of taking active arrest warrants out of the system.
Ray County Commissioners are currently working on the 2009 budget. Enss and the board have requested two additional employees from the county to handle the warrants.
Presiding Commissioner Jeff Adams said today that the county would meet with board members next month to try and work something out.
“We know how big the problem is,” Adams said. “We’re going to work on the problem and we’re going to solve the problem.”
Adams and the other commissioners would not comment any further until after a meeting with the board, but did say they have already cut more than $250,000 from the overall budget.
Porter did say the County 911 did need to address funding either through sales tax or legislation at the state level. In the past the center did not collect revenue from the outlying communities in the county, but has since worked out agreements that added more than $65,000 to the budget last year.
The report praised County 911 for its yearly contract agreement with the Mid America Regional Council. County 911 pays MARC $70,000 a year to be a member. In return, county dispatch receives all of their radio equipment and software for no additional charge. MARC makes upgrades to the system regularly and services the equipment if there is a breakdown. They also provide any training that is necessary for free.
“Other 911 jurisdictions the size of Ray County have not been successful in keeping up with the technological advances,” Porter says in the report. “The association with MARC has proven to be beneficial to the citizens of Ray County.”
Porter said County 911 should continue their relationship with MARC because, “Ray County receives the new technology much sooner than most stand alone operations.”
Other minor recommendations were made, such as placement of radio stations and setting up chain of command policies, which Enss said he has already done.

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