Council favors additional 911 dispatcher

Jan. 19—Creston City Council was in consensus of having a fifth, full-time 911 dispatcher as the reason for the need was explained Tuesday by Creston Police Chief Paul Ver Meer.

"We need help," he told council.

According to information provided by Ver Meer, the department has $48,907 budgeted for temporary dispatch help.

"We have had very little luck keeping our part-time dispatchers and this has caused considerable issues with filling shifts and overtime costs," he said. He said there have been about 10 part-time dispatchers in the past five years. "We have spent $19,698 in overtime for dispatch alone."

Ver Meer speculated the staffing problem maybe because part-time dispatchers usually work nights and weekends. He said a fifth, full-time dispatcher would come with some scheduling changes for more efficiency.

The limited staffing may also show in employee fatigue. He explained during the past three months of 2023 one dispatcher was on medical leave creating more work time for the others. From Oct. 13 to Dec. 22, dispatchers worked an average of 106 hours that were to be used by part-time dispatchers. He said a dispatcher trained police officer has helped when possible.

"Our current dispatchers did their part and covered the open shifts, but it raises a valid question about dispatcher fatigue and the chance for errors to occur," he stated. "My hope is that with a fifth full-time dispatch we could come up with some sort of rotating or hybrid schedule to alleviate this issue," he said.

Ver Meer estimated a full-time position will cost $86,175 including all benefits and payroll taxes. Union County pays half of all dispatcher salaries.

"I have checked with the Union County auditor and sheriff and they both support the position," Ver Meer wrote.

Ver Meer suggested to convert the part-time dispatcher funds to the full-time position. He said there is $38,365 left in the part-time dispatcher budget fo the remainder of the fiscal year.

Council was not required to take formal action on the suggestion as it equated to a budgeting issue.

In other council news...

Council did not take any action after hearing Jason Klejch, who lives in the 1400 block of West Jefferson Street, suggest the city take responsibility for a sewer line in his property.

Klejch said he and another property owner were notified earlier this month of a sewer line block suspected by roots of trees in the city's right of way. Klejch claimed it was this incident he learned the specific sewer lines are not city responsibility. The sewer was fixed and paid for by Klejch. He said he is not looking for compensation, only for the city to take over responsibility of the sewer line.

Klejch said when Park Street was renovated in 2018 the sewer line was recorded by engineers. Klejch claimed the city did not inform the homeowners of the changes made to the sewer line at that time. Since then, he said a walking trail has been installed over the sewer line from McKinley Street to Lake Shore Drive.