The Unicoi County 911 Service Board voted unanimously Monday to pay half of the overtime accumulated by emergency service dispatchers while the dispatchers worked 12-hour shifts.
Unicoi County Commission Chairwoman Sue Jean Wilson addressed the board and said that when the county’s nine emergency dispatchers were switched from working eight-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts, $33,121.63 in overtime was accumulated between them.
Wilson also called on the 911 Board to assist in the paying the overtime.
“Since 911 nor the county was spoken to about changing the shift work from eight to 12 hours, I feel that 911 should, in turn, help the county pay this overtime so that we don’t have to suffer the entire burden of $33,000,” Wilson said.
The county’s 911 service is sponsored by a surcharge on landline telephones rather than through property taxes, with the county paying the salaries of four dispatchers. In its proposed budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year, the 911 Board budgeted $13,000 for dispatcher bonuses and a 3 percent salary increase for dispatchers. However, once the county commission voted to grant 1.6 percent salary increases to county employees, this same amount was given to dispatchers and the proposed 3 percent increase and $13,000 in bonuses for dispatchers were scrapped.
The budgeted but unused $13,000 for the bonuses and additional 1.4 percent for raises left the 911 service with approximately $16,000 in additional money for this fiscal year.
Unicoi County 911 Director Patsy Ledford said Unicoi County Sheriff Kent Harris made the decision to place dispatchers on 12-hour shifts last July in hopes that it would save the county money. Ledford said this is similar to the shifts worked by law enforcement officers, but it was later learned that this pay cycle could not apply to emergency dispatchers.
“You can do this with the officers because they’re law enforcement,” Ledford said. “They have a certain pay cycle which goes for the 28 days. But on individuals, not law enforcement, you can’t do it.”
Ledford said officials were notified by representatives with the County Technical Assistance Service that the overtime accumulated by dispatchers while working the 12-hour shifts would have to be paid.
“Nobody said anything about overtime until CTAS come in, and they said ‘you’re going to have to pay these people,’ ” Ledford said.
Dispatchers worked the 12-hour shifts for approximately a year, but have since returned to working 8-hour shifts, Ledford said. She also said 911 has not had paid overtime since the move back to 8-hour shifts.
Unicoi County 911 Board Chair Jim Pate’s motion that the board pay one-half of the $33,121.63 in accumulated overtime using the approximately $16,000 in budgeted but unused funds was approved.
The Unicoi County Commission is expected to consider payment of the remaining portion of the accumulated overtime at a future meeting.