CLEARFIELD – Staffing shortages have been an ongoing issue for the Clearfield County 911 Center.
On Sept. 14, the county’s Salary Board temporarily approved an additional $200/week pay for “commissioner-approved” work duties for four individuals in management positions.
This included 911 Director Dave McClure; Emergency Services Deputy Director Steven Smith; 911 Coordinator Jeremy Ruffner; and 911 Quality Assurance Kylie Collins.
Commissioner John Sobel said the additional pay is subject to an ongoing board review every 30 days, and 911 management will indicate in advance when a staffing need arises.
He said there continues to be staffing shortages and management isn’t allowed to ask for overtime but is filling in as dispatchers, as needed.
“We want to properly man our 911 Center and are running into similar issues, as we have in Children & Youth Services,” Sobel said. “We appreciate their willingness to do this for us.”
Also, at that meeting, Commissioner Dave Glass noted there is a class of trainees and hopefully some will be ready in several weeks to lessen the burden on management.
On Tuesday, a few concerned members of the public addressed the board of commissioners over the 911 staffing shortage. The first was Polly Neeper.
She said that something needs to be done because the county is losing all its qualified dispatchers to neighboring counties that are paying more.
“You need to reclassify them,” she said, “so they’re not administrative. That is not an administrative job; there’s no way. Something needs to be done, or we won’t have a 911 Center.”
Suzanne Shaw said county dispatch should have 20 full-time employees and currently there’s 12, of which six are trainees who have less than three months of experience.
“They are not well-qualified to handle emergency calls,” she said. “These calls are not just for you and me. It’s for the entire county. It’s for your parents, your grandchildren – everyone.”
Shaw quoted Commissioner Tony Scotto from National Telecommunicators Week in 2020 when he spoke highly of the county’s “silent heroes” who save lives daily.
“And you have people out there being paid less than the starting wage at McDonald’s,” she said. “How can you expect people to devote their lives to this 24/7, 365-day job?
“That includes nights and weekends and you’re not paying them … these are essential personnel. They know what questions to ask, how to find you and will save your life.”
Shaw said dispatch had three people on-duty Tuesday when there was a car crash at the courthouse. “There should have been five. All the lines were busy.
“The sheriff’s office couldn’t get an answer to a radio dispatch and had to call Clearfield Borough (police) themselves. This is an issue. You’re losing people and will lose more. Calls won’t be answered.”
Tracy Weber, who has worked in the hospital setting for 20-plus years, agreed, adding when she’s on an ambulance, her life is put in jeopardy if she doesn’t have qualified people behind the radio.
“We have some amazing people at the 911 Center,” she said, “but I’ve also seen them dwindle over the years. I wouldn’t get out of bed for what they make; they are worth so much more.”
Weber said if something would happen to her on a call, she is of no help to patients. “I would highly suggest a change of status from administrative to emergency and a significant increase in pay.”
Following the public comment period, Sobel said the county is currently in collective bargaining negotiations and couldn’t comment on the personnel matter.