WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Police dispatchers in the city of Warren have been notified by their union that they will be on layoff status in November.
That’s because city and Trumbull County officials are working on a plan to merge the two dispatching units.
The Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolant Association sent out a letter to the eight dispatchers last week notifying them of the impending merger. The letter, signed by Daniel Leffler of the OPBA, states “it is my understanding that Warren dispatch employees may or may not be offered positions with the county.”
It also states that per contract agreement, the city is to transfer laid off employees to entry level positions within the city if available and Leffler requests a list of entry level positions available, saying “please allow this letter to serve as notice that the dispatch employees are requesting to be placed in entry level positions within the city where available.”
City and county officials said they have been in discussions for some time about moving Warren’s dispatching services to the county 911 center in Howland. However, there is no agreement in place and they have not sent out layoff notices.
“Cost is one piece of it, but safety, reliability of service, continuity of service without interruption, those are all parts of the discussion that are being held, but we are not at a point of decision yet,” Warren Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said. “I am not saying it is not going to happen, but I am not saying it is imminent either. There are lots of pieces to the puzzle that need to be ironed out.”
Warren dispatchers said they have heard little about their future from city leaders.
“It has all been hearsay. First thing we heard from our union director from OPBA was on Thursday of last week,” Warren City dispatcher Sandy Frazeskos said. “The city is not in a deficit, but they are talking about not getting the revenue from other businesses anymore so we need a cut. And again, they are hitting safety forces. We are the lifeline of the city and again they want to hit safety forces. We passed this tax in 2006. We are part of the tax, we want to know why safety forces are being touched again.”
Approximately 50,000 calls go through the Warren City dispatch center every year, while 47 police and fire agencies in Trumbull County currently use the Trumbull County 911 Center. Warren would more than double the number of calls the county center receives.
Only Girard, Niles and Warren currently do not use the Trumbull County 911 system.
Trumbull County 911 Director Ernie Cook said costs continue to rise.
“We are right around the corner from what we call next gen 911, which will be texting to 911, possible video feeds to 911. That software, that type of equipment is extremely expensive,” Cook said.
And those expenses are one of the reasons that Warren is considering the merger.
“The city would be irresponsible to not have those conversations and at least explore whether those savings are true and can be realized,” Cantalamessa said.
Union leaders said if the merger happens, city dispatchers will keep their jobs with the county, but at a reduced pay. They say however, the public will be the big loser.
“It is not about the figures anymore. It is about the safety of the officers and the public,” Frazeskos said.
On Friday, city and county leaders, along with the union, will meet to hear more about the plans.