by BRAD ROLLINS
Hays County will hire an additional ten dispatchers over the next year to ease an emergency communications system overburdened with ever-growing call loads.
Last year, the county’s 13 dispatchers, operating out of the sheriff’s office, fielded 189,939 calls for 27 area agencies, representing every law enforcement, fire and emergency medical provider in the county except the San Marcos police and fire departments and the Kyle Police. Three dispatchers were on duty for most shifts, one less than the barest minimum needed to prevent 911 callers from being put on hold or delayed answers to first responders in the field.
“When you call 911, you don’t want to be put on hold. … This situation today is far from acceptable as far as I’m concerned,” said Buda Fire Chief Clay Huckaby, president of the Hays County Fire Chiefs Association, which appealed to the Commissioners Court last month to buy equipment and hire staff.
As part of the budget adopted by the court for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1, commissioners added $406,983 for ten new dispatchers to be hired in two waves in April and October of 2010. A day earlier, the court appropriated $136,190 for two radio console systems to accommodate additional staff. The county’s eight emergency service districts are contributing a total of $80,000.
In addition, the Capital Area Council of Governments is contributing an additional $95,648 for new incident management equipment and maintenance for the county’s existing 911 infrastructure.
Advocates say additional staff will help prevent errors like those that contributed to a 16-minute response time when 7-year-old Daniel Galicia was struck and killed by a stray bullet in 2007.
CORRECTION NOV. 2: The story originally stated erroneously that Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley is chair of the Capital Area Council of Governments board. He chairs the Capital Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization.
San Marcos Mercury Managing Editor Brad Rollins writes about Hays County for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published.Email | Print