GREEN BAY - High employee turnover at the Brown County Public Safety Communications Center is prompting changes to improve staffing and morale.
Among the changes, a new training program is in the works for future employees aimed at improving work conditions.
Problems at the center started more than two years ago, as dispatchers began quitting in higher than normal numbers upset with long hours, high stress and later changes in employee benefits.
But now after two years of struggling to replace departing 911 dispatchers, a full staff could finally be close at hand.
"And I do truly believe we're making progress," said interim director Cullen Peltier.
Peltier was hired five months ago fix the personnel problem. He says he's finalizing a third class of new recruits to start training soon, and that will bring the department up to a full staff of 63.
"Yes we have new vacancies and are currently interviewing to fill those vacancies and we'll still continue to look at establishing an eligibility list," said Peltier.
Peltier says the job of a dispatcher isn't right for everyone and it takes time to find those who can handle the stress of emergency calls.
"As far as citizens and firefighters are concerned they should know that we won't put anybody out on that floor that's not trained on any call they receive," said Peltier.
Peltier understands some employee turnover is inevitable. The national turnover rate for public safety communications is high at around 18 percent. But last year Brown County outpaced the average at 24 percent.
"My goal is to reduce it to 10 to 12 percent," said Peltier.
Peltier says recruitment will be ongoing. And FOX 11 has learned the county is in talks with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College to set up a dispatcher certificate program--so potential new hires could come onboard with initial training complete.
Current call takers and dispatchers in the communication center we approached declined to comment on camera, but several indicated they felt recent changes were showing signs of improvement. But judging from disparaging comments we found on social media, it is clear a certain level of frustration remains.
"But what we're ultimately trying to do is make this a better working environment because we don't want those things posted on social media--not that we don't want people posting that they're disgruntled, we don't mind that--but we want them to be happy employees," explained Peltier.
And while a survey of communications center employees last fall showed 85 percent saying morale in the department was not good or poor, Peltier hopes a full staff and recently implemented employee recognition programs will change that for the better.
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