WARREN - Officials are planning to meet with police dispatchers and their union representative on Friday to talk about a proposal that calls for the city to contract with the Trumbull County 911 center in Howland.
City officials said that they recently received a request from The Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association for the dispatchers to be re-assigned to entry level city positions that are available per their contract agreement.
The union, in anticipation of what are being called impending layoffs, also asked for a list of those positions as the dispatchers are preparing for their department to be closed and their jobs to be cut.
However, some city leaders said the union may have "jumped the gun" because nothing has been finalized between the city and the county, and there's no agreement with the 911 center in place. Additionally, the city has not sent out layoff notices.
Last week, Mayor Doug Franklin said talks have been ongoing for sometime, but that there are a lot of details that would have to be worked out for the move to take place.
"We've been talking about this for awhile and have been exploring whether it would be the best option for the city," Franklin said. "But nothing has been finalized. There are still a lot of details that would need to be worked out and a lot of fine-tuning to take place before anything is set."
Meanwhile, the police dispatchers have been circulating a petition asking for support to keep their department intact. Trumbull County 911 Director Ernie Cook said he realizes some of them are concerned about their jobs and have speculated about possible pay cuts.
He said that, as has been his policy in the past, he would to offer all of the dispatchers jobs with the county if an agreement were to be reached. Cook said he is also aware that some of the workers have also expressed concerns about possible paycuts should they take the county jobs.
"But that's not necessary what will happen. It really depends on the position," he said. "All of that still has to be worked out.I would offer them all jobs. I need good experienced dispatchers. We'll meet Friday and talk about a lot of this. My thing is I would love to have them on board if this takes place."
Councilman Eddie Colbert said it comes down to two keep elements: service and common sense.
"Naturally, we have to look at what is most cost effective for the city while maintaining service," Colbert said. "What we do know is that we have a deficit and we have to make it up somehow."
Colbert said no one in administration has said anything to him about layoffs. He said that because the matter would involve a contract between the city and county, he expects council would have to vote on any agreement.
Officials said it costs about $918,325 a year to operate the city dispatch department. Preliminary figures indicate that the city could save about $500,000 by contracting with the county, they noted.
"But again, all of that needs finalized. A lot of this still remains up in the air," Colbert said. "I'm hoping to get some more concrete numbers from the mayor and the administration. It's my understanding they're having this meeting to discuss some of these concerns and we'll go from there."
Warren dispatcher Sandy Frazeskos told Tribune Chronicle news partner WYTV 33 News that the dispatchers have heard very little about the future of the jobs from city officials.
Most of the police and fire departments in Trumbull County use the 911 center for dispatching. Girard, Niles and Warren do not. Lordstown uses a combined system with its own employees. Calls for Warren Township are dispatched through Lordstown.
Cook said that as costs continue to rise, the only option that makes sense is for departments throughout the county to join forces.