Jennifer Montgomery: Clarifying my position on the Tahoe City dispatch center
In the April 15 edition of the Sierra Sun, a news story erroneously reported that the “Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to consolidate all dispatch in Auburn, ceasing dispatch operations on the North Shore.”
As your 5th District Supervisor, I want to correct that mistake and explain what is actually happening regarding the Tahoe City Dispatch Center.
At its March 24, 2009, meeting, the Board took the following actions:
– Accepted the Sheriff’s Department Public Safety Dispatch Study, including but not limited to recommendations to consolidate the Public Safety Dispatch Centers;
– Directed staff to work with the sheriff and personnel to develop a plan to implement the study recommendations;
– Directed personnel and the county executive office to engage in discussions with the Placer Public Employees Organization related to job classifications and recommendations; and
– Directed personnel to submit the recommended classification specification changes to the Civil Service Commission for consideration and approval.
Not until these tasks are completed will the Board consider approval of any actions related to the Tahoe City Dispatch Center.
At the March 24 meeting, I asked for clarification on several key points before voting to approve the four actions listed above.
I specifically asked if this proposal was an effort to authorize the imminent closure of the Tahoe City Dispatch Center, which I opposed. I was assured it was not.
I wanted to know how much public involvement in the discussion had taken place so far. The consultant who prepared the report said that, although none was included to date, once an actual plan was developed, there would be opportunity for public input. As I’ve said many times, it is of utmost importance to me that we include the public in our decision making process.
Additionally, while I am comfortable with centralizing dispatch management, I asked for clarification to ensure that the consultant was not immediately recommending any closures without further Board review and public input. Again I was assured that these recommendations would require additional time to implement properly and would come back to the Board of Supervisors for review.
Finally, when the motion was made for the Board to accept the four items, I again asked for and received clarification that the issues before the Board did not include a proposal to close the Tahoe City Dispatch Center.
I will be honest with you: we have some real issues and challenges we need to deal with in regards to the Tahoe City Dispatch Center, as identified in the Sheriff’s Public Safety Dispatch Report:
– We need to improve the continuity of operations between the Auburn and Tahoe dispatches”we need both cross training and ride along training for new dispatchers;
– The financial feasibility of operating two centers needs review and needs to be balanced against public safety concerns;
– All fire and EMS calls in the Basin will soon be shifted to Calfire’s dispatch center in Grass Valley. This will dramatically reduce the calls handled by Tahoe City dispatch;
– The Tahoe City Dispatch Center is currently not staffed around the clock; one full shift is routinely transferred to Auburn, and others need to be covered on an ad hoc basis when Tahoe staff is out for vacation or illness;
– Finally, the high turnover rate for Tahoe dispatch and our inability to hire new qualified staff is a real concern.
The report offered a variety of options for dealing with these many challenges. As the Sheriff’s Department moves forward with its implementation plan, I’m looking forward to reviewing the details of that plan. I also want to hear from you because we need to work together to achieve an outcome that is both reasonable and practical. Please feel free to send me your thoughts on this issue and, together, we can move forward.
Jennifer Montgomery is the Placer County Supervisor representing the fifth district.
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