MOUNT VERNON — Knox County 9-1-1 Coordinator Brian Hess met with the board of commissioners Thursday afternoon to seek a resolution from the commissioners approving of the new 9-1-1 contract Hess negotiated between the county and the Fraternal Order of Police, the union for the 9-1-1 dispatchers.
Hess said that negotiations ran smoothly until the issue of wages was addressed. He said that the union came to the bargaining table seeking a 4 percent raise for each of the contract’s three years. By leveraging the current condition of the economy and the coming future renewal of the 0.25 percent sales tax which supports 9-1-1, Hess negotiated a contract with a 2 percent raise in 2010 and 2011, and a 2.5 percent raise in the final year of the contract, 2012.
Hess said that there were some FOP members who pushed for a raise higher than 4 percent, but that he and the agency’s lawyer advised them to accept the 2 percent offer or the county would let the negotiations go to the fact-finding phase, where they would seek a contract with no raises whatsoever. He added that he pointed out to the FOP. that Knox is the only county offering a raise to dispatchers this year.
The contract also changed verbiage about drug testing to match current OSHA standards, and allows for a shift differential. Newly starting dispatchers will make $14.32 per hour in 2010, increasing to $14.98 per hour in 2012. A dispatcher with five years’ experience will make $18.04 by 2012, and receive an annual longevity payment in place of a raise after that.
Hess also noted that he found a way to save $30,000 by strictly controlling when dispatchers may take vacation, keeping experienced dispatchers’ vacation time spread out in order to prevent overtime.
The commissioners unanimously approved a resolution in support of the new contract.
In other news, Hess said that Knox County Emergency Management Authority has been asked to coordinate a multi-county exercise this year. Deputy EMA Director Matt Sturgeon, has written a grant which made it through the first round of eliminations which would enable the hiring of a technical consultant to help the county create a plan for consolidating communications among first responders.