BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind. – A recent vote by the Bartholomew County Council has started a public safety debate.
On Tuesday, the Council voted to not hire two new dispatchers. Council President Matthew Miller says 911 dispatch currently has two openings, so they need to fill those positions first. He says the council is also waiting to find out how much money they’ll receive from the state for their annual budget.
“There’s currently two open positions for the 911 center that have gone unfilled,” said Miller. “So, let’s fill those two positions first. Let’s wait 60 days until budget time. We’re going to have our full, annual budget in 60 days for next year.”
However, this 3-4 decision by the county council has many people speaking out on social media about their concerns, including Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers.
“I am extremely disappointed that four members of our Bartholomew County Council voted ‘no’ to add much needed dispatchers to the Bartholomew County Emergency 911 Center," said Sheriff Myers in a statement posted to his Facebook page.
On Tuesday, 911 Director Todd Noblitt presented statistics to the council showing why he believes the two new dispatch positions are needed. He said that emergency calls have increased almost 58 percent while the number of dispatchers has remained unchanged for almost two decades. He said right now there are 24 dispatchers.
Sheriff Myers added in his statement, “When it comes to our 911 Center – we are not where we need to be. Due to this shortage, our current dispatchers will be, if they aren’t already, mandated to work overtime. Due to the high volume of calls and the emotional and stressful nature of these calls, this will take a toll on even our most veteran dispatchers.”
Council President Miller says there’s no crisis. He says he appreciates that people care about the issue, but he’s disappointed about the backlash. He hopes people will come to more county council meetings to understand why decisions are being made.
“There is no immediate crisis, people should be assured when they call 911, we have great dispatchers that have really good training. We got great public safety all the way around, from the city and county,” said Miller.
Last year, the county council voted to raise the pay of dispatchers. Miller says it was the largest raise they’ve had in a long time. He says they’ve also added several additional spots for supervisors.
“It was an attempt to try to reward our dispatchers who have been career-long and have been there a long time and are really, really good at their job,” said Miller.
Miller says public safety is a high priority and the council plans to re-visit the dispatch request in August.
“Personally, I’ve been a deputy for 10 years," said Miller. "So, I used to work for the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office not only as a merit deputy but also a volunteer reserve deputy, so my highest priority is on public safety.”
Miller invites the community to come to county council meetings. They're held on the second Tuesday of each month.
Below is Sheriff Matt Myers' entire statement:
I am extremely disappointed that four members of our Bartholomew County Council voted “no” to add much needed dispatchers to the Bartholomew County Emergency 911 Center.
Director Noblitt made a professional presentation in which he provided statistics that emergency calls have increased almost 58-percent while the number of 911 dispatchers, 24, has remained unchanged for almost two decades.
Calls to 911 are often a matter of life and death. Bartholomew County’s 911 Emergency Center is operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and our 911 dispatchers are the “first” first responders, providing a vital first link to our residents in the chain of public safety.
When it comes to our 911 Center – we are not where we need to be. Due to this shortage, our current dispatchers will be, if they aren’t already, mandated to work overtime. Due to the high volume of calls and the emotional and stressful nature of these calls, this will take a toll on even our most veteran dispatchers.
Without additional dispatchers, Director Noblitt has told us that public safety officials on scene may not adequately get the information they need and dispatchers may not be able to provide vital information to 911 callers and/or the public during emergencies.
The County Council passed a Public Safety Tax specifically for this type of funding. The city of Columbus will pay for 55-percent of the costs and the County will pay for 45-percent. There is no need for public safety to be delayed, or for 911 calls to be delayed, until the 2020 budget sessions. It is not prudent for Council Council to wait until there are troubling incidents.
Director Noblitt’s presentation was detailed and he thoroughly explained why we need additional dispatchers and why we need them now. He provided statistics showing that our 911 Center is in “crisis mode”. I believe he provided everything he could to gain the unanimous support of County Council.
It was stated, by a Council member, that other county departments have requested new employees, 13 in all, and that waiting is the only “fair” thing. With all due respect, and with a full understanding that every department has “needs”, in an emergency, first responders are called first responders for a reason – to help people in their time of need.
No one knows better than Director Noblitt that Bartholomew County needs additional dispatchers now. I would encourage residents to contact their County Council representatives who voted “no”: Scott Bonnell, Evelyn Pence, Bill Lentz and Matt Miller and ask them to reconsider.
Nothing should be more important to our elected officials than keeping the citizens of Bartholomew County safe and secure. Continuing to “kick the can down the road” with a wait and see attitude, is not in the best interest of the public or public safety officials.
When it comes to public safety, you must be proactive. Being reactive is often too late.
Respectfully I remain,
Matthew A. Myers
Bartholomew County Sheriff