By Bill Oakey – June 30, 2014
Following a KXAN news investigative report and appeals from this blog, the City Council last Thursday took action to hire more call takers for the 911 EMS system. In accordance with my recommendation, they will hire 7 new positions using leftover funds to make the positions available without waiting for the new budget that begins on October 1st.
The critical staff shortages in the City’s Emergency Communications Center have persisted since the summer of 2011, with costly annual expenditures of $1 million for overtime, burned-out employees, and citizens being placed on hold during emergencies. Even the disastrous Halloween flood from last year was not enough to prod the City into action. The Public Safety Commission had voted numerous times to ask for more emergency operators.
Because of a State-mandated certification requirement, the new hires will need to complete an interim training program, which will be provided by the City. For details on the training requirement and job transition, see this document. Interested job applicants can read the announcement and file an application here.
The Thursday Council meeting was very contentious otherwise. The highlight of the day was their broken promise to scores of citizens who filled the chambers, hoping to speak on a $1 billion urban rail and road initiative. Mike Martinez and Sheryl Cole, both candidates for mayor, joined the majority in voting to break the promise and limit the number of speakers. Many of the rail activists took their anger and frustration into weekend gatherings and online discussions aimed at mounting a strong opposition to the November rail bond election.