In order to increase the number of employees qualified to take calls at the county’s 911 call center, Lycoming County commissioners approved a change in the classification of workers.
From now on, new recruits will be classified as interns in telecommunications. They can then switch to Telecommunicator I, call taker, and after one year of training can switch to Telecommunicator II, call taker and radio operator. The final level, Telecommunicator III, is a supervisor position.
“Under our current policy, we did not have call takers”, said Commissioner Tony Mussare. “So when a trainee enters the 911 Center, it takes about a year for them to be roughly qualified. “
“When we got down to eight people at DPS (Department of Public Services) 911, plus the two supervisors, it left us in critical condition,” he said.
Mussare noted that 911 operators must have certain knowledge and be tested in order to answer phones in accordance with Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations.
The situation at the county call center became critical during the pandemic when people were quarantined for exposure, leaving fewer people to answer calls.
“So it was something we had to sort out” said Mussare.
“By changing these advancements from a new hire to a carrier I, call taker, we will still have a call taker, and that’s essential.” he added.
Commissioner Rick Mirabito said he hoped other departments in the county would consider adopting similar ways for employees to move to different levels within their department.
“The other thing I love about it… is that it gives people the feeling that they can go somewhere in their department, and they don’t have to just wait for department heads to take their job. retirement “ said Mirabito.
“Hopefully we can take a look at this and do it in some of the other departments, because I think it would respond to what I’ve heard from some employees about feeling like they want to be able to go somewhere. So I think that is a positive thing and I hope it will help people want to stay ”, Mirabito added.
There would be a 5% pay increase when employees moved to Telecom I, and if they chose to move to Telecom II, that would be accompanied by another 5% increase.
“The good news here is that these costs are reimbursed as part of our 911 money that we receive,” said Mirabito. “But regardless, it makes people feel like they can move along a continuum of career development to 911.”
Mussare pointed out that there are currently around 30 vacancies in various departments of the county government.
“This puts enormous pressure and stress on employees in departments that have vacant positions,” he said.
“We know that we want to do a study, we want to have comparables. We’re also going to have to take a shortcut here to manage some of these departments and compare some salaries, or they’re going to be exhausted and they’re going to leave us ”, said Mussare.
The national labor shortage was cited as contributing to the problem by Commissioner Scott Metzger.
“We have a lot of jobs opening up. We already receive people who wish to be interviewed, but if they call for an interview, they do not show up ”, Metzger said.
“It is a problem that plagues the private and public sectors. It is a national problem ”, he added.