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LCCA dispatcher shortage addressed

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The Lea County Communication Authority is having staffing issues, according to LCCA director Angela Martinez.

The auto-attendant system the LCCA has implemented has allowed the agency to cut back on the number of incoming calls and has lightened the workload of LCCA employees, Martinez told the Hobbs City Commission Monday night.

“Our schedules before COVID were five, eight-hour shifts, with two days off,” Martinez said “Now, due to COVID and us being so short-staffed … really, we have four dispatchers now, and the rest are in training and they’re not counted as a dispatcher until they are released from training So we’re essentially short 11 dis patchers and that’s almost half of our staff.”

Martinez explained LCCA’s staffing is budgeted for 29 positions, with 24 of those 29 positions being dispatchers. She said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, three positions were frozen and six positions were lost due to employees having to stay at home, or contracting the virus A total of eight employees were working from home due to under lying conditions and worked on updating manuals, online train ing and sending that training to other dispatchers.

According to Martinez, at the current staffing levels, there are three positions currently unfrozen, with a total of four positions being open. Five employees just graduated from the academy and two are out due to COVID-19.

The employees she has now are working twelve-hour shifts and if someone calls in sick, they do not get their two days off, she said These employees also have mandatory overtime and have to work one if not both of their days off at times as well.

“Since the auto attendant, and before COVID, right now we have five dispatchers working a shift. We’re looking at going to six dispatchers working a shift,” Martinez stated. “Because of the auto-attendant, we were able to take away one dispatcher per shift, at certain hours, during certain days of the week — which allows for dispatchers to have more time off.”

The system was implemented a little more than five months ago and according to Martinez, the system was implemented to assist with the shortage of employees in 911 call centers and with cutting back on the number of employees needed to answer a call.

When a caller calls in, they are given twelve options, and the first message you are given when you call-in is, “If this is an emergency please hang up and dial 911.” Martinez noted no matter what when you dial 911 you will get a live person.

After that, if the call is not an emergency, and depending upon what department a caller is trying to reach, the caller would press a button for the respective department.

“I started the research because throughout the state of New Mexico 911 centers are all short-staffed,” Martinez stated. “If you look at Carlsbad and Las Cruces they both have the auto attendant, and I compare Las Cruces to us because they’re more comparable than Carlsbad is.

“Talking to the director in Las Cruces, they said that they decreased their call volume by 50 percent and they were able to decrease their employees by one to two.”

Martinez said with population growth comes growth of call volume as well.

“With each department in the city and in the county growing, they’re growing in personnel and with the police department and with the Sheriff’s department it’s not just the call volume that we have to worry about. With them being out there and them being proactive, that’s more calls that we are getting because of them out there,” Martinez stated. “Dispatchers aren’t just answering the calls and dispatching the calls, they’re also entering all of the warrants for the city, the county, all of the recalls.”

MARTINEZ SUPPLIED statistics to the commission for the past five-and-a-half months of what the auto attendant system has done and the length of time she predicts it will take for the system to take hold and the public to accept it.

According to her statistics, before the auto attendant system, 85,331 calls were answered. After the auto-attendant, 77,729 calls were answered. That’s a difference of 7,602 calls, and going down from five to four dispatchers.

Martinez explained transfers within each department and how the auto-attendant has helped decrease workload in that area as well.

“Before the auto attendant, we transferred 9,388 calls,” Martinez said. “After the auto-attendant, we transferred only 3,135 calls. A decrease of 6,253 calls.”

According to Martinez, when a caller calls time is being spent trying to figure out if a caller wanting to be transferred to a HPD department or LCSO department.

“We did the Hobbs Police Department jail first,” Martinez said. “So, we transferred 2,125 calls just to the jail. After the auto-attendant, we only transferred 50. Right now we are answering calls for the chief of Hobbs Police Department and then transferring them to his secretary. We are answering calls for the sheriff and then transferring them to his secretary. We are essentially just trying to cut out the middle man.”

Martinez said when a caller calls in after hours, they are transferred to the 911 center — a message is taken or the caller is told to call back during business hours.

Martinez said there were 953 calls to HPD records and after the auto-attendant the numbers were reduced to 72 calls while LCSO records calls decreased from 411 calls to 41, and HPD evidence from 245 to 30 calls.

In other agenda items the commission:

• Heard from three Chevron employees who made donations to the City of Hobbs, the Hobbs Fire Department, New Mexico Junior College and Hobbs Municipal Schools. Those donations are: $5,000 to Hobbs Fire Department, $10,000 to the City of Hobbs, $70,000 was given at an earlier time to Hobbs schools, and $30,000 was given at an earlier time to New Mexico Junior College.

“First of all, who we should be giving a standing ovation to is our firefighters,” Chevron Public and Government Affairs Representative Beverly Allen stated. “We really appreciate our firefighters, we depend on them in the community, but especially out in the field. Today we also gave $70,000 to Hobbs schools for some STEM labs at the middle schools. I have another donation in there of $30,000 to the junior college for 29 students to do a STEM lab for seniors. They will get to stay in the dorms, we’ll have some Chevron people coming and some out-of-town guests. We are grateful to be a part of this community and a community partner. Hobbs is awesome.”

Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb thanked Chevron for their contributions to the community and their continued commitment to helping Lea County students.

“Last Thursday, I was at the Energy Conference where their vice president of operations for the mid-continent group spoke and talked about Chevron’s continued commitment to Eddy and Lea County,” Cobb stated.

• An action item was approved determining certain properties ruined, damaged, or dilapidated, are a menace to public comfort, health and safety and requires the removal from the municipality. Those properties being 1523 East Dunnam, 2121 East Clinton, and 210 South Morris.

City of Hobbs code enforcement officer Jessica Silva, along with deputy city attorney Valerie Chacon, spoke to commission about the properties. According to Silva, a property is deemed ruined, dilapidated and/or a menace to public health, comfort and safety based on a few issues — some of those being unsound, debris or hazardous material scattered throughout the property and the property has no running water, or water lines.

One specific property was noted needing to be removed is 2121 East Clinton Street. The property, according to Chacon, has no running water or water lines, along with no sewage running to it either. It was initially condemned in 2009 and it was requested to be re-condemned so the owners have the possibility to remediate the issue.

Penick asked Chacon if the city gives property owners the chance to sell their property to someone who is willing to go in and run the water lines so those owners can recover some loss.

Chacon stated yes that Silva has been in constant contact with the owners, but the issue is the property is owned by one person and inhabited by another person complicating the matter.

“If we just keep citing them it’s never going to end,” Cobb stated. “So we have to go through the condemnation process in order to put enough teeth into it that we can either get the property owner of the inhabitants to make some positive moves toward resolving the problem.”

“It is also important to note that there are small children living in this property with no running water, no sewage and it’s important for us to do our duty to go through the steps we can and maybe get these kids to a better situation than they’re living in,” Penick stated.

“As far as the foreclosures go, we do have a duty to keep a clean and safe community, but we also have a duty to care about those around us and there’s 2 million and something odd Americans that don’t have running water, some of them because it isn’t important to them or their culture, others they can’t afford it. Sometimes water lines are something that people can’t afford,” commissioner Chris Mills stated.

“I’m sure that as a community we can’t forget that everybody doesn’t live in houses with all of the amenities that we’re used to. For those that are less fortunate, we always have to remember that it’s our duty as Christians to help the less fortunate and not just get excited to clean up these houses, especially these occupied homes. It’s really twisted for me that in this country we have people living in parks and sleeping on the streets every night that sometimes some shelter is better than none.

“We have to remember when we talk about this it’s also our duty to take care of our fellow man and woman and just like we try to do the cats and dogs that we don’t want out on the street in wintertime, we have to do that for the people too. Our zeal to clean things up, we have to remember these are human beings who are deserving of dignity and respect from the city government. We’re their government too.”

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