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Assembly to consider 911 dispatch staffing changes

Posted: January 19, 2014 - 9:20pm

At its Tuesday night meeting, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will hold a public hearing concerning staffing changes at the Soldotna Public Safety Communications Center.

Ordinance 2013-19-25, introduced at the Jan. 7 meeting, essentially calls for upgrading a dispatch position, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said. If the assembly passes the ordinance, dispatch position will be eliminated and a borough shift supervisor position will be created.

The reasons for the ordinance stem from the state’s previous commitment to fill two shift supervisor positions, but it has failed to fill one of those slot since March 2012. The proposed staffing change is necessary to ensure public safety needs are met, according to the ordinance.

Navarre said vacancies in the state’s staffing have required borough employees to work overtime to fill the void. However, he said the overtime issue isn’t entirely the state’s fault.

“Sometimes … when a position became vacant on the borough side, the state position would get hired by the borough and leave a vacant position on the state side,” Navarre said. “The result was that over time there was some real problems developing in excessive overtime at the (center) and it couldn’t continue.”

In addition to the costs to the borough for overtime compensation — about $100,000 annually — working overtime can add stress and pressure to employees, he said.

The ordinance calls for additional funds to be appropriated to make up the difference in cost between the eliminated dispatcher and the new supervisor positions. It calls for $6,000 be appropriated for the remainder of fiscal year 2014. The annual additional cost will be $13,200.

Adding another borough shift supervisor position would bring the total number of borough supervisors up to three. Currently nine dispatch center employees work for the state and 11 work for the borough, Navarre said.

Originally the borough considered an agreement to make the state dispatchers borough employees, which would not only alleviate the overtime problem, but also fix issues that come with managing two sets of employees.

The state determined it could not eliminate its own positions at the dispatch center without conducting a feasibility study, which can take more than one year, according to a memo pertaining to the ordinance.

With the original plan no longer an option, state and borough employees will continue to work side-by-side for the next two years while restructuring changes are considered. However, it was decided the 2006 agreement did need to be updated and the proposed ordinance addresses the problem, Navarre said.

“This issue has been festering for a while, and this is a step in the right direction,” Navarre said.

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com.

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