‘It’s scary times:’ City leader shares concerns with dispatcher shortage

‘It’s scary times:’ City leader shares concerns with dispatcher shortage
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 10:52 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - As Lexington city leaders face mounting pressure from the community and first responders about staffing shortages, one councilmember is sharing his firsthand experience of seeing the challenges.

Council at-Large Richard Moloney spoke out at Wednesday night’s Urban County Council meeting. This comes after a WKYT investigation revealed more than 1,000 calls to 911 have had wait times of longer than two minutes.

Councilman Moloney is calling for his colleagues on the Urban County Council to increase wages and implement other changes to help with recruitment and retention.

“We just got to fill these spots guys. It’s scary times,” Moloney said.

Speaking before his fellow councilmembers Thursday night, Moloney shared his concerns of the strains Fayette County’s E-911 system is facing.

“My mind was just freaking out just thinking of all of that. This was really an eye opener,” Moloney said.

He visited the dispatch center Wednesday night to see firsthand the challenges. What he saw when a shooting was reported was jarring.

“And then there was a wreck. I noticed up on the board, there were a bunch of red lights, and those were people call waiting. And that’s when I started imagining what it’s like to be one of those callers if I’m having a heart attack, or my house is on fire, and I have to wait,” Moloney said.

When Moloney visited the center, he says there were just five call takers when there should be 10-15.

“I could not see myself doing this job while I’m sitting there on the phone talking to someone and looking up at that board and see the red light and knowing somebody else is calling 911,” Moloney said.

Moloney is calling for action, saying wages for these callers must be raised. Not only to keep the callers they have, but also attract qualified new callers to fill vacancies that could save lives.

“We need to do this thing as soon as possible. Hopefully when council gets back from its break, we’ll start putting these priorities together,” Moloney said.

Moloney said Fayette County’s pay is less than several surrounding counties. Many call takers are working 14-hour shifts to make up for the slack.