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Staffing shortage: York County 911 has 28 vacancies ... but no job postings

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

A staff shortage at the York County 911 Center is so dire that the agency announced it's cutting some services to first responders — yet the county doesn't have any job postings for emergency dispatchers on its employment page.

The 911 Center is budgeted for 66 full-time dispatcher and call-taker positions, plus eight part-time positions, county spokesperson Mark Walters has said. There are currently 27 full-time vacancies and one part-time vacancy, he said.

Officials said the jobs should be posted early this week.

More:York County 911 to reduce nonemergency services to first responders

More:York County 911 dispatchers required to work 12-hour shifts over union's objection

The York County 911 Center is revising the dispatcher job descriptions in an effort to attract more applicants, said 911 Director Matthew Hobson.

"We’re exploring all kinds of strategies to try to broaden the advertisement of these jobs and to recruit folks, including school programs at both the high school and college level," he said Thursday.

Staff shortages have been an issue at the 911 center for years.

Matthew Hobson, the new director at the York County 911 Center, was introduced to the community at a meet-and greet at the center Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Hobson started the job Feb. 10. Bill Kalina photo

In an effort to lighten the workload on the limited number of staff, Hobson decided to temporarily limit the nonemergency services dispatchers have typically provided to police, fire and EMS agencies, including looking up response times for reports, calling taxis and road crews and alerting public utilities about nonemergency situations.

The York Dispatch reported the change Wednesday after obtaining a copy of a Sept. 18 letter Hobson sent to all York County police chiefs, fire chiefs and EMS officials detailing the new protocol.

The changes go into effect Oct. 1, according to the letter.

York County Commissioner Ron Smith, who campaigned on the issue of the 911 center, said there are several factors contributing to the recruitment and retention problem, but that one of them is compensation.

York County's starting base wage for a new emergency dispatcher is $14.54 an hour Smith said.

York County Commissioner Ron Smith
Wednesday, September 16, 2020. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

As dispatchers finish their training and advance in the ranks, there are opportunities for raises, as well as weekend pay, overtime pay and other benefits, he said. But being a dispatcher is a demanding, stressful job that requires employees to work all hours, weekends and holidays.

"To me, $14.54 an hour doesn’t cut it," Smith said, especially when he compares York County's starting wages to those in surrounding areas.

In Baltimore County, Maryland, dispatchers have a starting base wage of $19.55 an hour, Smith said.

"I’m not saying the compensation package is going to be the be-all, end-all and fix everything," he said, but it's a step in the right direction "to get people and entice them to come in and make a career out of the 911 center."