City needs more dispatchers, other public safety workers

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Carson City could spend more than $2 million in the next two years upgrading its public safety work force.

At the top of the list for officials is the addition of dispatchers. Nine are needed, and plans call for hiring five in the 2003 fiscal year and four dispatchers the following year.

Specifically, the public safety master plan, approved by city supervisors in November, calls for four dispatch supervisors and five dispatchers which would allow the dispatch center 24-hour supervision.

The current situation allows for dispatcher supervision through one manager and one supervisor, and sometimes due to vacation, leave and sick days, the center is left with only two dispatchers handling calls for fire, sheriff and other city departments. The positions over the next two years are estimated to cost just over $500,000.

"We view (funding those positions) as a critical task," Sheriff's Chief Deputy Scott Burau said. "That's where the delivery service starts. If we fail at that end, we fail through the entire process."

Carson supervisors will review Thursday the master plan's first phase implementation plan. Among its recommendations is $360,000 for staff and equipment for a third ambulance.

However, Fire Chief Lou Buckley said he was asked to come up with a free solution to staffing a third ambulance.

He will present supervisors with a proposal Thursday to pull three firefighters from Station 3 and three firefighters from Station 1 to create a two-man, multi-purpose unit at Station 1. The unit would cover three shifts with a firefighter and firefighter/paramedic who would not only be able to respond to fires, but also able to respond to ambulance calls when the other two city ambulances are out.

However, that change comes at a cost of having four men on the engines at those two stations. Buckley called the idea a "poor substitute" to actually staffing a third ambulance.

"I'm robbing Peter to pay Paul, taking from one area to cover another," Buckley said. "If I have three ambulances out, I'm going to a fire with less resources than I have.

"This isn't the best fix. It's the only one I can come up with that doesn't cost money given the fact the city manager gave me no dollars."

Reviewing the plan is precursor to the city's budget session, which begins March 18 and ends March 25. Buckley said he plans on asking city supervisors to fund six positions, three for the ambulance and three for a truck company, both recommended in the master plan.

Burau said besides dispatchers, the sheriff's office will ask for about five positions, both in patrol and detention.

Details of the city's proposed $44 million budget haven't been released, but the city is facing the loss of Wal-Mart and its estimated $1 million in sales taxes to Douglas County and are bracing for a tough financial year.

Public safety funding has been a top city priority for at least five years.

Since 1997, supervisors have funded 38 public safety positions -- including nine positions for the Public Safety Complex in 1998 -- and poured about $4.1 million into equipment and technology from patrol cars and fire trucks to exercise equipment and a new dispatch system. The $23 million Public Safety Complex was finished in 1999, creating a new home for the district attorney, justice and district courts and creating a new jail.

The Fire Department runs on a $4.6 million budget, the sheriff on a $9.9 million budget. Together they accounted last year for about 34 percent of the city's $42.7 million budget. The two departments account for about 240 of the city's work force of just under 600 people.

If you go:

What: Carson City Board of Supervisors

When: 8:30 a.m., Thursday

Where: the Community Center's Sierra Room, 851 E. William St.


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