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Dispatcher absence sends city scurrying to hire another
• Council moves on new hire to save overtime costs
Ceres Police headquarters on Third Street
Ceres Police headquarters on Third Street is where public safety dispatchers work.

The City Council last week approved the overstaffing of a police dispatcher to save overtime costs because of a worker’s prolonged absence.

One of Ceres’ police dispatchers has been out on leave indefinitely since August pending a workers’ compensation claim and it’s unknown if the dispatcher will return to work. The Ceres Police Department has covered the absence by working others on overtime, which has been running about $10,000 per month, or about $50,000 for the rest of the fiscal year ending on June 30. The estimated cost to fill the position by overstaffing with a dispatcher at step A of the pay range for the remainder of FY20 is $33,640. Overtime savings would not be realized until after a new dispatcher is fully trained, according to a staff report to the council.

“Overstaffing this position will reduce overtime expenditures required to cover for the affected employee but only after another full-time dispatcher is hired and fully trained,” the staff report read. It could take up to 12 months to recruit, hire and train a dispatcher.

Ceres Police Chief Rick Collins said the ability to cover dispatching needs is of “utmost concern.”

Because Ceres also provides dispatch services to the city of Newman, two dispatchers are always on shift at all times.

City Manager Toby Wells said while he cannot discuss the absent dispatcher’s specific circumstances or potential workers’ compensation claims, he said that until an employee is declared permanent and stationary – or a condition stabilized and unlikely to substantially change with or without medical treatment – settlement of a claim is not normally negotiated. 

He said a schedule adjustment has been made to limit the burden of the shift coverage to a select few dispatchers.

“This schedule adjustment has not solved the problem and has distributed the burden over all of the dispatchers,” the report to the council read.