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Staffing Discussions Continue On Communications Center

By Staff | Oct 29, 2015

Staffing concerns of the Communications Center were once again brought in front of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors at the regular meeting that was held on Tuesday, October 13, 2015. Palo Alto County Sheriff Lynn Schultes was on hand to again show the need for an additional full time dispatcher.

“A few months ago I came before you guys requesting to add on a full time dispatcher and full time jailer. You did allowed me to hire a full time jailer, thank you so much for that,” Schultes said. “Since then, the situation in the Communication Center hasn’t changed any. I did put an add in the paper and received on request for part time work and only two applications for full time, other than two part time dispatchers we currently have who are also interested in a full time position.”

“From January 2015 through June 2015 our part time dispatchers have put in 1,557 hours and from July 2015 until now, they have put in 1,013 hours for a total of 2,570 hours so far this year,” Schultes stated. “So far this year we have paid over 4,000 overtime hours and I think this is a big amount.”

“More of a concern to me is that my part time staff, most of them have full time jobs. So not only are they working 40 hours at their full time job but they are putting in 15 to 25 hours for me and they can’t do that forever. They are cutting back because they just can’t physically do it,” Schultes said. “My full timers, although they enjoy the overtime money, they can’t continue to work six and seven days a week. It’s getting to the point where people are starting to burn out. So far they are sticking with me, but I don’t want to get to the point where people are burning out. Then we have a 24/7 operation and people aren’t showing up.”

“At this time, I am interested in full time work. I have interviewed the only applicant that requested part time. I need to go a head and get someone hired,” Schultes stated. ” In losing 11 dispatchers over a four year period and training 11 dispatchers, and the last person we trained we had just over $5,000 in training of the last person, and they just didn’t work out. It’s taxing training people. It’s taxing on the employees working the overtime. It’s taxing on the part timers working their 40-hour jobs and then working 15 to 25 hours in dispatch. I’m concerned that if this continues we are going to have more burn out and more people quit and then we may have something seriously go wrong be it a fire, someone getting hurt, whatever.”

“At this time, I need to hire someone and I think the option is full time,” Schultes said.

“So this is like last time, the hours are already being paid, so this is about the benefit package?” Supervisor Chair Craig Merrill asked.

“That’s correct,” Schultes answered.

“You talked about the last person that you hired, were they under the insurance policy?” Merrill asked.

“In the jail they were not, no and to be honest the two people that are currently working for me that are interested in the job would more than likely take the insurance. The two people that applied, applied because they want full time and need the insurance,” Schultes said. “So this comes down to an insurance issue because the hours are already paid.”

“What do you pay the part time people?” Supervisor Keith Wirtz asked.

“Once they are certified, $16.73 per hour,” Schultes responded.

“Is that what a full time person would get, $16.73 per hour? What will this do to your budget?” Supervisor Ron Graettinger asked.

“Yes, this is what the pay would be once certified. There is going to have to be some amendments made, I foresee that,” Schultes said.

“I think you need to go back and see what you think you will need and where you are in your budget. You need to come back and tell us how much you have in your budget for this and how much it’s going to cost,” Graettinger said.

“Are the uniforms in there to?” Supervisor Linus Solberg asked.

“Yes they are.” Schultes replied.

“Why don’t you go to the City Council and ask them if they will hire this person and take it over?” Supervisor Ed Noonan questioned.

“Is the city part of this too?” Graettinger asked.

“Yes they are and they pay into the county $40,000 a year,” Schultes noted.

“We haven’t charged them any extra in the last few years, so maybe they need to start paying a little more,” Graettinger commented.

“I would agree that definitely needs to be looked at,” Schultes said.

“I think you need to look at raising the wage on the part time so you get applicants. That’s how the system works, you pay enough, you get the quality of people you need. I don’t think we need to give insurance to everybody,” Noonan said.

“You could go up to $20 per hour if that will get you part time help,” Graettinger said.

“The last time the union wouldn’t let you do that?” Noonan asked.

“The union did not want that,”Schultes said.

Does the union run this county? Do they run your department? I mean how do they have a say?” Noonan asked.

“It’s the union’s agreement. You guys signed it,” Schultes said.

“Are the part time people part of the union?” Noonan asked. “Secondary roads, part time people are not members of the union. Why are your part time people?”

“I have no idea,” Schultes said.

“Are you sure they are part of the union?” Noonan questioned.

“Yes, I am,” Schultes answered.

“Do they pay union dues?” Graettinger asked.

“If they belong to the union, they do,” Schultes said.

“There is a handful of part time jailers and dispatchers that belong to the union,” Palo Alto County Auditor Carmen Moser said.

“You are talking about a new hire, correct?” Noonan asked.

“Correct,” Schultes said.

“So then a new hire would not belong to the union if you just hire them,” Noonan said.

“They have that choice to join the union,” Schultes said.

“So obviously, they do have the choice and some of them must belong to the union,” Merrill said.

“So who does the negotiating with this union as far as this issue?” Noonan asked.

“Jill Davis, an attorney from Spencer, IA represented the union and I have no idea who represented the Board,” Schultes said.

“I need to see the contract. I want to know what it says,” Noonan said.

“I think you need to come back with your budget, see if you have room for some of this, and talk to the city council about this,” Solberg said.

In other business, Terry Klooster declined his appointment to the Civil Service Commission due to leaving the county. In a unanimous decision, Mary Hilfiker was appointed to the vacant seat on the commission.