Commissioners taking more of a role in dispatch center

The Yuma County Commissioners are stepping into a more active role with the W-Y Combined Communications Center.
The dispatch center has been serving Yuma and Washington counties since the early 1990s. Yuma County Commissioner Robin Wiley said rumors that the commissioners want to disband the center are completely unfounded.

“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” Wiley told the Pioneer later last week. “We don’t want to disband the comm center. This is a move where we want to make it viable for years to come.”
Don Nadow, retired from the Colorado State Patrol, recently was hired as the new director after spending about one year with the Yuma Police Department.
Wiley said the Communications Board hired Nadow, but the Yuma County Commissioners did sit in on the interviews.
The director now is a Yuma County employee, and the county is taking over handling the Comm Center’s bills and payroll. Wiley said the hope is everything will operate more smoothly, and will result in cost savings.
A new inter-governmental agreement between Yuma and Washington counties is being done. Wiley said the Washington County Commissioners are on board.
The current Communications Board is disbanding, and a new one will be created that will include commissioners.
Commissioners had been concerned as the center’s financial situation became more precarious.
“Some things had to change,” Wiley said.
The Yuma County Commissioners, including Trent Bushner and Scott Weaver, met with staff and Communications Board members last Thursday night.
There was a lot of discussion about staff morale, communication and overtime.
Dispatchers said morale has been low for the about the last two years, and it would be helpful if the commissioners would meet the dispatchers and let them know they are wanted. Dispatcher Ryan Saffer told Wiley he does not even know him.
“You can do a meeting all you want, but you just walk by the dispatchers whenever you walk in here,” Saffer said. “You talk about caring, but until you walk in her and shake hands…”
Wiley noted there is a fine line from falling into mirco-managing. Current Communications Board members said it had voted to stay out of the dispatch area so as not to interfere. “We don’t come in because we don’t want to be in the way,” Colin Patterson said.
Everyone seem to agree more communication would go a long way.
“We want this to be here for a long time, and be successful,” Bushner said.
He then steered the conversation toward “the elephant” in the room — overtime and holiday pay.
Yuma County is taking a bigger role because it contributes $460,000 annually to the WY Combined Communications Center, which had a total of $731,546.65 in total revenue in 2020. Washington County contributes $230,000, and the Washington Yuma 911 Board $40,000.
Overtime and holiday pay ballooned from $59,422 in 2019 to $113,531 in 2020. That line item is more back in line in the 2021 budget. Bushner noted it has not been on budget for several years. He said the revenue looks solid, but questioned the fund balance.
“Right now our fund balance is really ugly,” Bushner said. “Fifty-thousand dollars on a $1 million budget isn’t going to do it.”
Patterson said overtime is needed to cover dispatchers on vacation or call in sick. The 2021 budget was set at $41,000 figuring 19 hours of overtime for each dispatcher.
Wiley said there are plenty of people in Yuma and Washington counties that do 24-hour schedules who could help in that area.
Saffer said extra time spent actively involved with a medical call cannot be made up simply by closing early.
He explained that dispatching is a tough job to staff, and 50 percent of applicants don’t even make it through training.
“We had one guy on Day 2 who said ‘there’s no way, no way I can do this’…it’s not a typical work environment. You’re lucky if you get five years out of an employee here, and that’s the same nationwide.”

Saffer said he did not think the overtime budget is adequate, while others said it does work.
“Honestly, we don’t know how it costs to run this place,” Patterson said.
Weaver stressed there needs to be a solid plan in place in order to justify financial support, also noting the commissioners did not get a budget explanation in the past, until the current 2021 budget.
Nadow said he knew about the financial difficulties coming into the job. He said his focus is figuring out how to get through 2021 and then make improvements for 2022.
“The information from (Nadow) is what we wanted for a long time,” Wiley said. “If we get that squared away, we will have a successful organization for a long time.”
“We’re going to be open with everyone,” Bushner said, “and I hope you’ll be the same.”
Nadow said he will be meeting with the commissioners from both counties once per month.
“We want to make sure all agencies are heard,” Wiley told the Pioneer the next day. “Communication is key.”