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Washington Twp. Mayor Explains Civilian Dispatching Plan

Mayor Janet Sobkowicz aims to save money while maintaining existing services by replacing police dispatchers with civilian dispatchers.

Washington Twp. Mayor Explains Civilian Dispatching Plan

Washington Township Mayor Janet Sobkowicz explained a plan for how the township's emergency dispatching will operate in the future during a council meeting Monday night.

The dispatch, which is used for the township's police, firefighters, EMTs and DPW, will have three full-time civilian dispatchers on weekdays and two or three part-time dispatchers on weekends, Sobkowicz said. One of the full-time dispatchers would act as the "lead" and be responsible for training and scheduling the others.

The civilian dispatchers will replace police officers, who make more money per hour working on the dispatch desk. Officials previously said no police would lose their jobs because of the plan.

Officials said the lead dispatcher would make about $40,000, the two other full-time dispatchers would make about $37,000 each and there would be about $50,000 budgeted for several part-time dispatchers at a wage of about $18 per hour, though these figures had not yet been voted into the salary ordinance.

Council Vice President Fred Goetz said he was concerned about the costs of the in-house dispatching plan, which is estimated to be about $50,000 more expensive than a plan to share dispatching services with Westwood.

"We're adding more employees, more liability, more benefits packages, more equipment," Goetz said.

The council had voted unanimously in favor of the Westwood plan in November, but Sobkowicz said she would not sign a contract to take dispatching out of the township.

Sobkowicz said Monday that the advantages of keeping the dispatching in the township's Police Department — it would have had to close at night if they outsourced the service — outweighed the extra cost.

"That's not a big price to pay to keep dispatching in the township," Sobkowicz said.

Sobkowicz also noted that other nearby towns, including Hillsdale and Emerson, have recently successfully switched to civilian dispatchers.

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