Two new 911 dispatchers are in training and hiring two others was approved Tuesday by the Greene County 911 Board of Directors.
When the two additional dispatchers are hired and trained, there will be 16 full-time dispatchers as the county’s central dispatch plan goes forward, 911 Director Jerry Bird said.
“We are moving ahead. We have hired two dispatchers,” Bird said.
A pay increase for two dispatchers with between five and 10 years’ experience to bring their salaries in line with increases approved last month for new hires was also approved by the 911 Board.
Dispatchers continues to train on taking law enforcement calls with Greeneville police officers and sheriff’s deputies assigned to 911 during the central dispatch transition process. Notable progress has been made, board chairman and Greeneville police Chief Tim Ward said.
Dispatchers are getting comfortable taking 911 police calls and transmitting information to officers in the field.
“We’ve already started doing that,” Ward said. Several days last week, 911 dispatchers took police calls while officers and deputies were performing other duties.
“They’re doing well. They had questions, they called and they worked their way through,” Ward told board members.
Dispatchers will be increasingly relied upon to take law enforcement calls once students return to school and officers are needed elsewhere.
The training process for two new dispatchers is proceeding, Bird said.
“It’s going well. It’s getting easier for them,” he said.
Greeneville police officers and sheriff’s deputies have been working since last year with dispatchers at 911 headquarters, familiarizing them with processing law enforcement calls. The projected date for sheriff’s deputies and police officers to leave 911 Dispatch is Feb. 28, 2021.
DISPATCHER PAY RATE
In September, the board approved raising the pay rate for new hires to $13.50 an hour. Pay will be increased to $15 per hour after a six-month probationary period leading to certification. The board also approved hiring two additional full-time dispatchers, which was formally done Tuesday.
The previous starting salary for Greene County 911 dispatchers was $10.96 an hour, a figure that needed to be more competitive with the pay rate in neighboring counties, board members said.
Two current dispatchers with five to 10 years’ service received pay raises to $17 and $16 an hour, respectively, commensurate with their experience.
The current top pay rate for 911 dispatchers is $20.35 an hour after 15 years’ experience, Bird said.
Seven potential candidates who have passed tests given to all applicants make up a pool of possible new dispatchers, said Kelley Dabbs, 911 training officer.
“Of these seven, hopefully we can get whatever the board requires us to hire by the next meeting,” Bird said.
Board member and County Commissioner Teddy Lawing said that a previously commissioned salary survey should be used to review pay rates across the board.
“If we’re going to adjust salaries, we should look at all of them,” Lawing said.
Dabbs said more than 20 job candidates who initially expressed interest in dispatcher positions in the past year took jobs elsewhere because of the pay rate.
Comparative 2019 starting dispatcher salaries for other East Tennessee counties include about $14 an hour for the cities of Bristol and Kingsport, Hamblen and Jefferson counties and $10.38 for Carter County.
Training also continues for dispatchers on performing National Crime Information Center background checks. NCIC checks are done on individuals requested by law enforcement after traffic stops, for missing persons, to obtain orders of protection and in other situations.
The NCIC criminal history process can be time-consuming, said Margaret Knight, helping to coordinate sheriff’s department central dispatch efforts.
Dispatchers are learning the process in phases, 911 NCIC training coordinator Seth Spradlin said.
“We’re not there yet. We’re very close,” Ward said.
CAD SYSTEM GETS NOD
In other business, the 911 Board approved engaging a new company to provide a more user-friendly computer-aided dispatch system.
The cost for an ID Network CAD system is $299,410, along with a tentative five-year maintenance contract that brings the overall cost to about $469,000.
The Greene County Commission must approve paying for the CAD system and a maintenance contact that could cover up to 10 years.
Motorola also presented a package to the 911 Board.
Ohio-based ID Networks CAD system “is quite simply one of the most user friendly, powerful, flexible and configurable systems available,” according to the company’s website.
Greene County 911 dispatchers agree.
“The ID Network appears to be a more cost-effective measure and dispatch likes it better,” said John Waddle, board treasurer and a county commissioner. Waddle has advocated a new CAD system for two years.
Ongoing support issues with the current CAD service provider have been noted by dispatchers and board members. Funds were earmarked in the 2019-20 budget for the central dispatch system, but funding a new CAD system was put on hold.
The 911 Board voted to authorize purchasing the ID Networks system, and it will now go to the county commission for approval.