From the daily archives: Tuesday, July 17, 2012

By Mario Conde

The Measure H committee decided to table a three year grant request for Public Safety Dispatchers in order to let City Administration handle this through the appropriate channels.

The request for a three year grant was in response to an item presented to the City Council by Councilman Bill Hodge. Councilman Hodge had received complaints regarding service issues concerning the Public Safety Communication Center. Hodge visited the Center on a few occasions and found that the Center was severely understaffed and the potential for inadequate service was possible due to the lack of staffing. Direction was given by Council to look for ways to increase the efficiency of the communications center. It was recommended that the Police Department approach the Measure H Committee for a grant to assist with staffing issues on a limited term basis.

Police Chief Jim Neujahr understood the position of the Measure H committee to not fund positions but asked this to be given as a grant in order to staff dispatchers, Neujahr explained  that prior to the recent personnel cuts, the Dispatch Center was covered by 11 Distpatchers and one Supervisor. The City hiring freeze and austerity measures has reduced the number of Dispatchers to seven. More recently, three of the remaining dispatchers have been off for an extended amount of time for various personal reasons. Two of these dispatchers have since returned to work, and other remains off duty, Chief said.

Neujahr said that the Department has two Community Service Officers assigned to assist in the Dispatch Center. The City Manager allowed for the Department to hire a “temporary” hire to help cover shifts. The extra manpower may appear to be a benefit, but the training required to give the new person the capacity to effective perform the job takes a minimum of six months. As a result, the few dispatchers that are working must split their time between handling emergency calls and training these new dispatchers.

“This unfortunately adds additional stress to our Dispatchers due to the severe personnel shortages that already exist. The Department has tried to maximize coverage during the busiest call times, all the while weighing the price of burning our the few Dispatchers who are working.” Chief Neujahr said.

The Department planned to eliminate the CSO positions and convert them to Public Safety Dispatcher positions. This will be an additional cost of approximately $13,973 per year due to the pay difference between the lower paid CSO and the pay and benefits of a Public Safety Dispatcher. By adding the two reassigned CSO positions to the Dispatch Center, the City would only need to bring on three additional Public Safety Dispatchers. The Department requested two additional PSD positions, on three year grant in the amount of $359,621.20 for the three year period, plus $43,316.30 for the CSO conversion cost, for a total three year cost of $402,937.80.

Councilman Bill Hodge said he brought this up to the attention of the City Council and visited the communications center. Hodge said that Calexico is a unique border community and takes unusual emergency calls due to the proximity to the border. “It’s a matter of efficiency and not having a full dispatch staff is a threat to public safety.” He said.

Mayor Daniel Romero was surprised to have this item on the Measure H agenda. Romero said that this has to be looked internally and then shared with the rest of the Council. Romero said that he supports the concern by Councilman Hodge and Chief Neujahr but this should be addressed by City Manager Oscar Rodriquez, the Finance Director, and the Police Chief. Romero was concerned that this will set a bad president for the Measure H committee if passed.

Hodge replied that the bottom line is that this is an emergency issue for the City and the need to have dispatchers was very important. Commissionaire Mike Davies said that he agreed with the premise of Councilman Hodge and knows from personal experience working as a dispatcher the necessity of having well trained people in those positions. However, he said that there needs to be a process and said it was weird that this item was recommended by a Council member rather than the Council or the Fire and Police Chiefs.

After some discussion, it was decided by the Measure H committee not to take any action at this time and have City Administration handle this situation.


By Jim Predmore

We just returned from our summer vacation to Tennessee where we visited family and explored the many sights of the old country side. We started our 1988 mile journey home on Thursday morning with 6 of us in a mini-van, along with our entire luggage and some treasures my wife brought back from her hometown. We left Mc Kenzie, Tennessee around 9am and headed west on I40.  We reached Memphis just before 11 am and decided to stop for a late breakfast at a Cracker Barrel just off I40. As we were enjoying our meal, we heard a message over the loudspeaker about a van that sounded like it could be ours. I went to see what the problem was and was met by the manager, who looked quite grim. As we walked around to the driver’s side of the van I saw a pile of broke glass on the asphalt. There was glass every where, on the ground and all over the driver’s seat, carpet, and cup holders.  My wife had left her purse under the front passenger seat. It was gone. I told the manager that it was gone and he went inside to call the police. I went back inside to our table and told my wife what had happened and took her outside to see the damage. One of the patrons came up to me and stated that he saw a couple of young guys standing around the van. The manager stated that there was surveillance video and he went inside to capture it as we waited for the police. While we were waiting, I started thinking that we needed to get the drivers window replaced as there were thunderstorms reported for areas all along I40  west. I thought to myself, “Where do I start?” We were nearly 1900 miles from home and not at all familiar with Memphis. We had purchased the vehicle from relatives.  The make and model of that particular van was only manufactured in the years of 2007 and 2008. Knowing that the van had been only produced for two years, I thought that it was going to be hard to find a new driver’s window. I imagined it would have to be ordered and that we would have to get a hotel and probably a rental car.  This would be a problem as we had only allowed a couple of days to get home.

Prior to us leaving I had saw a headline on Yahoo that stated, “The Ten Most Needed Apps Needed While Traveling“, one of them being the Yellow Pages App. I downloaded it before we left and I am glad I did. I typed in the name of the manufacture of our van and asked for their parts department. I got a parts man on the phone and he stated that they didn’t carry any glass replacement parts, so I asked him who he could recommend. He told me of a glass shop. I went to my Yellow Pages App and typed in their name. It came up and with a push of a button it connected me to them. I told the person on the line of our predicament and gave her the make, model and year of our van and asked her if they had the window. To my surprise, she said yes. The app also gave directions to their shop, which was only about two miles away.

Meanwhile the police had arrived and the manager had came back out after looking at the surveillance video. he told us that they captured the subjects on video and that one of them had actually gone inside the restaurant and asked for a job application as the other waited in a car that was parked in front of ours.  Apparently we had been targeted, having a vehicle with out of state plates. They watched us get out of the van and go inside the restaurant.  Talking to the police they stated that they were having a real problem with these kinds of thefts and that the thieves were usually looking for quick cash.

After the police had taken their report and got some finger prints off the van, we headed to the glass repair shop. As soon as we arrived, they showed us to the waiting room and took the van back into the shop.  After about an hour they brought it back with a brand new window and we were on our way.

My wife had only about $40 in her purse.  The rest was credit cards and debit cards, which we quickly canceled. She was more concerned about her planner, the keys to the cars and offices and her new sunglasses. The thefts made a quick run and reached over our Nikon SLR camera, two laptops, and a Gibson guitar that was probably worth more the van.

This was a wake up call for us and in the future I think we will park our vehicle in a place where can keep an eye on it and not leave items of value inside. All in all, we were lucky to have the repairs done so quickly and to be able to continue our way back west across the country. I think were just about to hit Texas when my wife’s cellphone rang with a call from Memphis.  Someone had found her purse and agreed to ship it to us in California.  There are still some good Samaritans in this world.

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