LEETONIA Police chief seeks more dispatchers

Turnover is high among part-timers who leave for full-time opportunities.
LEETONIA -- Police Chief John Soldano would like to have some staff for the department's new dispatch center.
With renovation of the village hall, dispatchers have moved from a cramped glass cubicle to a spacious office across from his office.
Although council approved hiring one dispatcher Wednesday, Soldano would like to have three more.
"We're always short and that makes scheduling a nightmare," the chief said. "Most of our dispatchers also work for other departments, and if they get a full-time offer, they take it -- and I don't blame them."
Soldano would like to have three full-time dispatchers, but with $214,000 budgeted annually for himself, 10 police and eight dispatchers, he knows that's not possible.
Ideal situation: A staff of 10 part-timers is ideal, but seldom happens, he said. Soldano has eight dispatchers available, but one is about to take a leave, another will be on maternity leave soon and a third was offered another job Wednesday.
"I hate to lose her, but I don't discourage them, or my officers. If they can better themselves, I tell them to go for it," the chief said.
Dispatchers are scheduled on four eight-hour shifts at $6.92 to start. After a six-month probation period, the pay increases to $7.57.
The dispatchers pay into the Public Employees Retirement System, but no health benefits or vacation are offered.
Qualifications: Dispatchers should have good computer, typing and telephone skills and be able to deal with the public. "They have to be cool under pressure," Soldano said. "People think it's a cake job because of low crime in Leetonia, but we handle police, fire and medical first-response calls and it can get pretty hectic around here."
He said he'd prefer hiring dispatchers with experience, but would consider training someone if they have good skills.
"If you're a dispatcher, you're going to be someone's lifeline," Soldano said. "You have to make calls to check on the officers in the field. You have to know where they are. You might have to give an ambulance crew directions.
"If someone calls and says their house is on fire, or a woman calls screaming into the phone that her husband is having a heart attack, that's stressful."