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Dispatchers disappointed and discouraged in approval of only three hires

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind.— Dispatchers feeling overworked and understaffed say they are disappointed and discouraged in the executive board’s decision to fill only four more positions.

They were hoping for fourteen more 911 operators.

On Thursday, the three person board heard from the current staff about the longtime staffing issue. Deciding to hire three new dispatchers and one new trainer.

The board is made up of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood and St. Joseph County Commissioner President Andy Kostielney. Their recommendation will still need to be approved by the county and city councils.

“Chances are we are going to need to revisit the chance to do even more, but, we thought it was better to walk out with this, with some motion towards some growth in the team rather than nothing at all,” says Mayor Buttigieg.

It’s a compromise hard to swallow for current staff. Dispatcher of 10 years Julie Kroger broke down in tears.

“Just heartbroken. We’re tired we’re exhausted. My quality of life is not very good,” says Kroger.

Kroger says she’s now re-evaluating if the career she cares about is worth sacrificing so much time with her family.

“They miss me. They express it every day. It’s very depressing because this is my career this is my passion and I’m good at it. I care, I have compassion,” says Kroger.

Their union held a rally last month in front of the County City Building.

“It was a kick to the gut. People are still going to come to work but I think now that those dispatchers, with this decision, are going to reevaluate how they are valued as 911 operators in St. Joseph County,” says Union President Michael Clayton.

The board says more hires could come incrementally. But while they work to get a better sense of what is actually needed, they won’t approve all of them at once.

“I was hoping for the 14 and to hear it was just three and then the stipulations that they put on it, it was kind of crushing,” says dispatcher Renee Putman.

The board says taking care of 911 operators is important and they will continue to try to find a solution.

“It’s a terrible situation because what we’d like to do is to give them all of the resources they need but we just don’t have that available to us,” says Kotielney.

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