City needs to heed dispatchers’ call for help

On Feb. 21, I went to the 2018-19 city budget workshop. Five residents showed up.

I’ll be the first to tell you there is no perfect time or day for any meeting, but I am disappointed in the poor public attendance. This meeting was held at 4 p.m. Back in the day, most budget meetings were held at 7 a.m.

Hey, it just occurred to me: Maybe every working person who can’t attend city meetings can have a designated retiree go to the meetings for them. Just a thought.

I’m also disheartened that the city did not livestream this workshop, nor was it recorded for later viewing. There was no announcement on the city’s Facebook page regarding this workshop, nor was the workshop listed on the web calendar. I checked both places. If you find a notice for this workshop, I will gladly apologize to the city.

Informing residents of public meetings should be part of what the city receives from 10e media for the $7,950 per month it pays for public relations and social media management. But, as I just said, I couldn’t find any workshop notices.

The workshop agenda packet is at this link:

While there is a lot of information to pore over in the 326-page budget agenda packet, I’m going to focus only on general fund expenditures for new positions that were added to the 2018-19 budget. Three new positions are being requested: youth sports (weekend/evening) in parks and recreation for 10 hours a week at $10 an hour; reserve emergency medical technician/fire/paramedic in the fire department for 12 hours a day, two people per day for seven days a week at $14-$18 an hour; and landscape maintenance worker in public works for 40 hours per week at $23.81 an hour.

As I told the audience during public comment, I was extremely disappointed that no new dispatchers were added in this budget.

In 2011, I wrote a column in this newspaper stating the same complaint. And here I am again, seven years later, still talking about the same thing! And for years before that I talked to council members and a police chief or two about adequate staffing in dispatch.

Dispatchers have always been responsible for police and fire calls and animal control, and I know all of you are keenly aware that dispatch is the first place most residents call if there is a power outage. I have spent time in dispatch as a reporter taking a Citizens Academy class and later as the city’s public information officer.

I may have told you this story before but stick with me as I repeat it. It was a Friday, city employees’ day off, but for some reason I was at the police department, and a power outage occurred. The dispatcher was by herself and couldn’t leave the phones to record a message about the power outage on the answering system. So, I recorded the message for her, and both of us hoped someone would be available in the next couple of hours to update it.

This is a minor example of what happens when there is only one dispatcher on duty. What if a dispatcher gets ill during a shift and no one is there? How long would it take to get someone to fill in?

What if the dispatcher couldn’t call someone to let them know she had an emergency? What if a dispatcher must go to the bathroom at 3 a.m.?

Because the budget does not give individual salaries or hourly wages, it is impossible to compare what dispatchers make compared to, for example, employees in landscaping or streets. But I will show you this. In the 2018-2019 budget, the public safety communications salary is $460,131; landscaping salary is $647,147 and streets salary is $569,630. I love trees and grass and streets, but do you think the city could find a little in those budgets, or any other department budget, for that matter and staff dispatch properly?

Dispatchers are the first line of defense for all of us. Without them, people could die from an accident, a fire, a heart attack. Dispatchers direct the police and fire departments. Everyone is flying blind without them.

How many more years will it take before the city answers the dispatchers’ call?

Rose Ann Miele is a journalist and was public information officer for Boulder City for nine years. She can be reached at or at 702-339-9082.