Is Cutting Back On Services In The Best Interest Of County?
To the Editor:
As some of you may know, Sheriff Lynn Schultes has requested, in recent months, from the County Board of Supervisor’s their approval to add additional full time staff at the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office. This additional staff request included one full-time jailer and one full-time dispatcher. The requested jailer position has been approved by the Board of Supervisors. The requested full-time dispatcher position remains in discussion with the Board of Supervisors.
The Palo Alto County Communication Center is tasked with providing telephone and radio services throughout Palo Alto County. Those tasks include answering emergency and non-emergency phone calls, dispatching law enforcement services and dispatching ambulance, medical and fire services to each and every corner in Palo Alto County. The Palo Alto County Dispatch Center is currently manned by three (3) full-time and three (3) part-time employees. Currently part time employees cover the weekend shifts in the dispatch center. Each of the current part-time employees maintain full-time employment outside of the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office. As you can imagine, with each part time employee also working a full time job they get burnt out on working every weekend and not having time off or time to spend with their family.
The requested fourth full-time employee would help alleviate extra hours being covered when current employees are utilizing holiday, sick and/or vacation time. The fourth full time dispatcher would alleviate that problem as a schedule would be worked out between four full time employees to cover all shifts through the week and weekend with less part time hours being needed to cover these shifts.
The hourly salary is currently budgeted in Sheriff Schultes’s budget for the fourth full-time dispatcher. The only increase to tax payers of Palo Alto County would be for the insurance which the county provides for their full-time employees. Sheriff Schultes, as requested by the board of supervisors, has reached out to the communities of Emmetsburg and West Bend to supply additional funding for dispatching services that would off-set the cost on the insurance that is provided to the employee. The City of West Bend has agreed and voted to provide additional funds to Palo Alto County for this service. The City of Emmetsburg has also been approached for additional funds and that issue will be discussed by them on February 8th. The funds solicited from these communities were requested in good faith under the acknowledgement that they would be used in connection with the hiring of the fourth full-time dispatcher.
After six months of negotiations with the board of supervisors and much leg work done by Sheriff Schultes, the Board still has not made a decision. These funds are already accounted for in the current and upcoming budgets as the Sheriff has to pay an employee to staff the dispatch center 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year. The increase has already been offset by the additional funds from West Bend and requested funds from Emmetsburg that the communities have approved to pay to the County.
Imagine this if you will . . . you have a major life altering emergency and need emergency assistance. The first person you call to get help is the 911 operator . . . . what other position in this county is more important to you at that time?
We all understand the need to save money and to cut back costs as we are all faced with this struggle daily. Cutting back on spending for some services may not be in the best interest of the citizens of Palo Alto County.you decide.
Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office Employee Association
(signed) Melanie Rouse, President
Deb Rouse, Secretary/Treasurer
Matt Veon, Spokesman