- Associated Press - Monday, May 30, 2016

CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) - A northwestern Indiana county facing a state mandate to consolidate its emergency dispatch operations is still struggling to gets its call center fully staffed more than a year into that merger.

Lake County launched the consolidation of its 18 municipal dispatch operations for its sheriff, municipal police and fire departments in January 2015 after Indiana ordered all 92 counties to merge their county, city and town public safety dispatch services.

County E-911 Director Brian Hitchcock said the consolidated call center has yet to reach the allotted 95 full-time dispatchers. Lake County payroll records for May indicate there are 82 full-time dispatchers, 26 part-time dispatchers and 12 administrators on the department staff.

County Commissioner Mike Repay, who chairs the E-911 advisory board, said the understaffing has generated a large amount of overtime work and overtime costs paid for by the public. The county has paid an average of $40,000 in overtime over 2016’s 11 pay periods, the commissioner’s office said.

Before the dispatching consolidation, the now-disbanded agencies weren’t filling vacant positions and some had “only a third of the employees they were allotted,” Hitchcock told The (Munster) Times (https://bit.ly/1XJfy9E ).

Hitchcock said new dispatchers are being hired all the time but the department is constantly losing dispatchers through termination, job stress or those looking for a higher salary than Lake County’s pay scale of $28,000 to $40,000 a year.

Consolidations always have early high turnover rates because it’s stressful work taking calls for emergency services from the public and relaying them to police, fire or medical workers in the field.

“Sometimes, people can’t work in that environment. It’s too intense,” Hitchcock said. “We are seeing it settling down a little bit now, but it will take us a little bit longer.”

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com


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