Fresno coun­cil votes to add 8 dis­patch­ers to im­prove lag­ging 911 wait times

The Fresno Bee - - Local - BY BRI­ANNA CALIX bcalix@fres­nobee.com

Fresno City Coun­cil unan­i­mously voted Thurs­day to add eight new dis­patch­ers to Fresno Po­lice De­part­ment, us­ing $1.9 mil­lion re­ceived through the sale of a city park­ing lot to the Fresno Griz­zlies.

The joint pro­posal came from Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Es­mer­alda So­ria, who rep­re­sents District 1, and Coun­cil­man Garry Bre­de­feld, who rep­re­sents District 6.

Po­lice Chief Jerry Dyer told the coun­cil in June dis­patch­ers in his de­part­ment strug­gled to meet the state’s re­quire­ment to an­swer 95 per­cent of 911 calls within 15 sec­onds due to low staffing and a grow­ing call vol­ume. The coun­cil at that time pledged to add dis­patch po­si­tions when money be­came avail­able.

On Thurs­day, coun­cil mem­bers made good on their word.

“Our res­i­dents’ safety must re­main our high pri­or­ity and we will con­tinue to look for op­por­tu­ni­ties to fur­ther im­prove our ser­vices,” So­ria said.

Bre­de­feld brought up how some res­i­dents ex­pe­ri­enced long hold times when call­ing 911, call­ing it “unac­cept­able.”

“Hir­ing th­ese dis­patch­ers will en­sure that our cit­i­zens who need emer­gency ser­vices will no longer have to fear not hav­ing their call an­swered im­me­di­ately or have to wait min­utes to get help,” he said.

The hir­ing may be­gin as early as Fe­bru­ary or March so the new dis­patch­ers will be fully trained and ready to work in­de­pen­dently by sum­mer, said Jeff Cardell, the city’s per­son­nel di­rec­tor.

The city cur­rently em­ploys 87 dis­patch­ers, of which about 20 per­cent are un­der­go­ing train­ing, said Lt. David New­ton, the de­part­ment’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions bu­reau man­ager. While the new po­si­tions are a big help, the de­part­ment needs nearly 50 more dis­patch­ers to meet the state’s stan­dards, he said.

“Ob­vi­ously the City Coun­cil is mov­ing res­o­lutely to­ward im­prov­ing our re­sponse to emer­gen­cies in the com­mu­nity,” he said.

The $1.9 mil­lion that made the move pos­si­ble came from the city’s sale of an H Street park­ing lot to the Fresno Griz­zlies last month.

The money orig­i­nally was marked for the city’s as­set sale re­serve fund to be used over a 5-10 year pe­riod. The cost to fund the po­si­tions in the next fis­cal year will be $176,000. In fol­low­ing years, the po­si­tions will be paid by money in the city’s as­set sale re­serve fund.

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