Gadsden having trouble retaining dispatchers, not just police officers and firefighters




  • In Business
  • 2022-08-18 02:00:53Z
  • By The Gadsden Times
 

Everyone's talking about the need for pay raises to retain Gadsden's first responders - generally considered to be police and firefighters who respond to calls for help when there's an emergency.

When officers who've worked out their notices in the police department hand in their badges, the department will be 21 officers short.

The Gadsden Fire Department is eight firefighters short, with three more working out notices.

And Gadsden Police Chief Lamar Jaggears said as bad as the shortfall he faces in the police department is, the situation is worse in dispatch.

When the most recent dispatchers to resign have worked out their notices and are gone, Jaggears said, there will be eight people dispatching emergency calls for the City of Gadsden, dealing with each call for fire and police officers that come in.

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That's eight people to cover calls and dispatch the personnel needed and provide the communications that keep people safe as they respond.

The city is approved for 16 dispatchers to cover shifts, the chief said and should have two operating on each shift. With a couple more dispatchers turning in their notice, he said, the department will be down to half the personnel it should have.

"We work a lot of overtime," Jaggears said. "It's just a bad situation. When you working people the way we work them, you better pay them."

The stress of working so much overtime drives people from the job, he said.

Right now, dispatchers start at $14 an hour, Jaggears said, but there are other jobs where people can earn that much.

"Dispatchers train for 20 weeks," he said, if the department can hire them.

The job is a lot more than answering the phone, the chief noted; it involves a lot of technology.

Still, it's a job that people can apply for with no advanced education; the city provides the required training. Because of that training, however, it's not like the city can hire someone who's immediately able to contribute.

Some other municipalities have contracted to dispatch duties with the Etowah County Communication District/Etowah 9-1-1. Rainbow City is the most recent, but to be able to do so, Etowah 9-1-1 needed to hire any willing dispatchers from the city.

Jaggears said the district would have to hire additional personnel to handle dispatching Gadsden's first responders.

There could be equipment issues as well, he said, between the communications systems used by the two different agencies. "They don't talk to each other," the chief said.

For now, Jaggears said, the city is hiring, if anyone wants the jobs.

Contact Times reporter Donna Thornton at 256-393-3284 or donna.thornton@gadsdentimes.com.

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Need a job? City of Gadsden needs dispatchers, police, fire fighters

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