By Bill Oakey – May 31, 2014
When KXAN aired their investigative report this week on staff shortages at the City’s 911 Call Center, I assumed that the problems with burned out workers, call takers putting citizens on hold, and high overtime costs for taxpayers were a relatively recent problem.
Sadly, I was wrong. The Austin American-Statesman ran a story on June 27, 2011 with the headline, “An Emergency at the City’s 911 Call Center?” Here are the first two sentences from that story:
“Austin 911 officials say they are so strapped for operators that they have routinely spent $1 million or more for overtime and for temporary workers to fill shifts, even as thousands of callers waited on hold sometimes for minutes at a time because no one could immediately answer.”
“The city has not added any new operator positions to a staff of about 200 in nearly a decade, despite nearly 25 percent more calls to the center and repeated requests from call center managers. ”
Nearly three years later, just this past week, we heard this from Robert Maxwell at KXAN:
“Records show Austin 911 paid out nearly $1 million in overtime and for temporary workers this fiscal year. Some of the overtime was aimed at curbing the staff shortage problem due to scheduling issues or staff calling in sick.”
There is talk swirling around in some quarters that a new report to address the problems may be coming. KXAN has seen a draft of this report, but no one at City Hall seems to know if or when it will be released. Meanwhile, the City Manager’s formal budget proposal is due to be presented to the City Council in late July.
This morning at the Citizens Forum at the City Council, I made an attempt to jump-start some relief for the beleaguered 911 Call Center workers and a chance at better efficiency for the taxpayers. Here is a KXAN website report on that. The story should run on this evening’s 6:00 PM news. (Saturday)
We need to rally our friends to contact the City Council and ask them to do a budget amendment from surplus funds to hire some new 911 Call Center staff. If you agree that 1,070 consecutive days is long enough to wait for this critical public safety issue to be resolved, you can email all 7 City Council Members here with a single click.