Faced with an ongoing shortage of dispatchers to take 9-1-1 emergency calls, County Executive Steve Ehlmann is supporting a plan before the St. Charles County Council to hire specially-trained contract employees to help answer emergency calls.
The emergency bill being introduced before the Council Monday night would authorize the county to contract with Moetivations, Inc., which provides certified 9-1-1 dispatchers to staff the phones to relieve the pressures of short-staffing on existing call takers.
A shortage of 9-1-1 dispatchers is a national trend, and the county has been working to recruit more, offering the highest starting pay of any dispatch agency in the St. Louis region.
“We will continue to try to hire more people,” Ehlmann says. “This is a stop-gap measure.”
Currently, the St. Charles County 9-1-1 system is 10 dispatchers short of its full staff of 44 positions. Four recently hired dispatchers are currently in training.
“This is a proactive step,” Ehlmann says. “Our response times have not been affected. We’ve been able to maintain our standards — and we want to keep it that way.”
The bill’s sponsor, Council Chair Terry Hollander, says “It would help prevent burnout among dispatchers working overtime and maintain our staffing requirements. We try to fill these positions, but when we can’t, we overwork the people who are there.”
Under the plan, the county would be authorized to hire eight contract dispatchers at a cost of $518,398 for six months — compared to $369,544 for eight dispatchers working as regular county employees for the same period.
The proposal would also allow the contract to be extended, if needed, for two additional three-month periods.
Funding for the proposal would come from the County’s Emergency Communications Fund.