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Dispatchers seek better benefits

By Staff | Dec 19, 2014

Four full-time emergency dispatchers and one part-timer joined Sheriff Matt Lunde in requesting a change to the dispatchers’ benefits at the Pierce County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday.

“Essentially, the job that we do is we are first responders,” dispatcher Ann Gibson said. “We are the first first responders. We may not be medically trained, we may not be trained by the fire department, but we are first responders. First responders work 12-hour shifts all over the country and they work 24/7 in the their jobs.”

Called into question was a change to the employee handbook, effective Nov. 1. The dispatchers began receiving 7.25 hours worth of pay for eight hours of vacation, sick and holiday benefits. The dispatchers, hired as full-time employees with full-time benefits, typically work 36 hours each week on 12-hour shifts.

District 4 Commissioner and Chairman Duane Johnston explained that changes to the employee handbook are not done by county employees, but a consultant named Roger Krueger, of Great Plains Benefits Group.

“We look at suggestions and agree if new changes should go in,” Johnston said. “It is what he brings up based on his research of what others are doing.”

The dispatchers and commissioners agreed to explore changing the pay schedule to match that of correctional officers, who also work 12-hour shifts, but are on a 168-hours-per-month scale instead of a 36-hour weekly schedule.

The change would mean no pro-rating of benefits.

The commissioners said they would like to speak with Sheriff-Elect Josh Siegler before making any changes to the employee handbook or pay scale. The sheriff oversees the dispatchers and Siegler’s term begins Jan. 1.

The dispatchers said they do not have enough staff to change to 8-hour shifts. Lunde heaped praise on the dispatchers for their dedication.

Lunde also requested the board consider clarifying the differences in funding between the dispatch department at the law enforcement center and the Heart of America Correctional and Treatment Center. Both are housed at the law enforcement center.

Emergency operation plan approved

The board approved an updated version of the county’s emergency operation plan as presented by Emergency Manager Kelsey Siegler, the sheriff-elect’s wife. She said the plan is about 90 percent done as the resource list and directory will need updating Jan. 1. The overall plan includes plans for the emergency operation center, evacuation plan and sheltering plan.

Siegler said the format has been updated to closely mirror plans of other counties and cities in the region, so if something big happens, other area responders can easily assist Pierce County.

Siegler told the board she is organizing an evacuation drill for the area of Rugby near the high school in the spring. She said the schools have also asked for another shooter drill. The previous shooter drill was conducted at the high school, but the next drill will be at Ely.

Dates have not been set for either, but the county will notify all homeowners and business owners that will be affected by the drills. The emergency alert system will also be used for the exercises.

“If we don’t practice, our plans are no good,” Siegler said.

The county will also develop a registry of people with special needs to make sure people needed assistance can efficiently move in the case of an emergency or evacuation.

Other meeting news

The board approved a transfer of $166,000 from the general fund to the law enforcement center fund. The figure was determined to approximately cover payroll for December.

The board approved the hire of Melinda Bischoff-Voeller as the director of socials services.

The board approved bills yet to be paid. The board also approved payment of $13,000 to USDA for the library elevator project. The board approved a transfer of $100,000 from the county poor relief fund to social welfare fund. A transfer of $50,000 was approved from the highway distribution fund to road and bridge fund. A transfer of $25,000 was approved from the wireless fund to Emergency-911 fund.

The board approved a bill paid to Brad’s Towing for vehicles involved in arrests. Lunde explained that money can be recouped through an auction and forfeiture dollars.

The following deposits were made to townships for 2013 FEMA projects: $53,600 to Tuscarora, $49,000 to Meyer and $16,300 for Antelope Lake.

District 3 Commissioner Rick Larson was not present.

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