Editorials

Make 911 dispatching efficient, not a jobs program

St. Clair County telecommunicators handle about 50 percent more call volume with one-third the staff as Madison County’s 16 emergency dispatch centers.
St. Clair County telecommunicators handle about 50 percent more call volume with one-third the staff as Madison County’s 16 emergency dispatch centers. dholtmann@bnd.com

The large counties in Illinois had 18 months to figure out how to cut their 911 call centers in half. Madison County did nothing.

They got a judge to give them until Jan. 1 to deliver their plan. More than four months after the deadline and they are still working on it.

Which provides taxpayers with an opportunity: Push the foot-draggers to cut from 16 call centers to four, just like their same-sized neighbor St. Clair County.

Madison County currently has 16 call centers. They handled 127,627 calls last year. They employed 225 people. That’s a little more than two calls per worker per shift.

St. Clair County handled 50 percent more call volume with fewer than half as many dispatchers — and that was before St. Clair County consolidated. Now St. Clair County has 72 telecommunicators after consolidation instead of 100.

So Madison County needs to think about the taxpayers and cut to four 911 call centers. They also need to look at staffing them with only 47 telecommunicators instead of 225. That would be the number if Madison County took its call volume and matched it to the workload of a St. Clair County telecommunicator.

Speaking of foot-draggers, Swansea finally consolidated with Belleville and they are seeking police front desk help to take over some of the old dispatcher job duties: Up to $46,384 for a job only requiring a high school diploma.

Why so much?

Swansea Police Chief Steve Johnson said because the people will handle evidence and confidential information, plus take as long as six months to train, so the salary is intended to attract quality candidates who will stay around. The $46K figure may only be reached after someone stays 20 years, he said.

And what will Swansea’s savings be post-consolidation? There aren’t any. There is about a $170,000 cost, Johnson said.

New Swansea Mayor Mike Leopold, who formerly handled the village’s books, was asked about the salary being offered.

“Sounds a little high to me,” Leopold said. “Our ultimate goal with consolidation is to try to save money for the taxpayers.”

Right.

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