By Jaime Thomas
Emergency communicators in Washington County are handling a higher volume of calls with less help.
Jack Rogers, a labor relations representative for the county’s 911 communication center, addressed the county board of supervisors at a monthly meeting Friday morning.
“Please consider this issue of the lack of employees in this stressful and valuable job. The liability and protection of the citizens of Washington County start here. Please don’t wait until something terrible happens,” said Rogers. He called the workers the heart and soul of the community.
He said the United Public Service Employees Union is worried about the safety of members, whom he described as underpaid, under-helped and overworked. The union feels it needs more full-time employees so staff can handle the high volume of calls.
Rogers gave the board statistics to support his claims. The center handled more than 2,700 more incidents or an almost 13 percent jump in the past year. And despite the doubled workload and expanding service coverage, Rogers said there hasn’t been a proper response in the communication center force.
“The addition of the Hudson Falls Police Department has increased the calls for service tremendously, with no new assistance at the consoles,” Rogers said.
“Our union is concerned for the safety and well-being of our members and the public,” he said. The board of supervisors listened to his presentation but made no action Friday.
On Monday John Rymph, chairman of the board, said Rogers’ news was nothing new.
“We pretty much dealt with some of it. It’s an ongoing thing,” he said. He said the board didn’t realize emergency call responders were taking many non-emergency calls.
“We’re taking steps now so they don’t have to do that,” he said. The union is now in negotiation for a new contract, and Rymph said the board will discuss how much new help is needed.
The remainder of the meeting was quick and rote; supervisors accepted previous meetings’ minutes and introduced and approved various resolutions.
Rymph recognized and welcomed a young Norwegian woman, who just arrived to study abroad in Hudson Falls for a year. She is staying with the family of Roger Wickes.
“I just thought I’d introduce her and thought it would be a nice thing for her. It’s a nice program,” he said.
When Rymph opened the floor for discussion, Argyle Supervisor Robert Henke raised a challenge.
“Once again we have to throw out a milking contest at the fair. I figured since Hartford has the dairy princess, I figured he’d milk,” Henke said, referring to Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff, who accepted the challenge.
The next board of supervisor’s regular meeting will take place Friday, Sept. 20 at 10 a.m.