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First Responders Have No Faith In Boyd - Holt E-911 Board

Jun 28, 2023 (0)

Boyd - Holt 911 Board Members - (l-r): Keith Larabee, Josh Treptow, Dustin Breiner, Alan Nicolaus, Chuck Wrede, Matt Otte and Scott Menish.

The recent tension between the E-911 board and Fire Departments, EMS and Law Enforcement from both Boyd and Holt County came to a head on Tuesday, June 20th, as representatives filled the Holt County Annex meeting room.

The board has struggled to keep employees the last few years and has failed to keep some of its promises to other dispatching agencies. Troubles with employees and management have fractured the once smooth operations center that dispatch for the two counties.

The board is made up of appointees from both Boyd and Holt Counties. The Holt County and Boyd County board of supervisors should take heed from this meeting, where a clear verbal vote of no confidence and a demand for new leadership in the board was made evident.

The board opened the meeting by going into an executive session to interview two new people for open positions at the center and then meeting with communication contractors concerning cyber security and the system.

The board then opened up comments to the crowd. 

The board answered questions posed to them by the crowd for public comment.

When asked about day-to-day operations, it was stated by chairman Dustin Briener that six to seven dispatchers are needed to complete a full schedule and that the office is currently running on four. "We are trying to get and retain new hires, but it is tough for everybody at this time to get quality employees," said Briener speaking for the board.

When asked about the division of management in the office and why they had sub-divided the job of the head dispatcher, board member O'Neill Police Chief Matt Otte said they had taken the previous dispatch supervisor position and divided it into one person taking care of administrative duties and then a lead dispatcher to handle the training and dispatch part of the job.

"The other regions are having similar problems retaining help, anweare not the only ones having these troubles," said Briener.

O'Neill Fire Chief Roger Miller spoke next, relating to the board that he is a 36-year member of the O'Neill Fire Department, serving as chief and assistant chief for many of those years. He is also a 10-year member of the 911 board, leaving his position in 2018.

"This board has gone downhill and started to crumble. We tried to build this organization up with the formation of a regional group that would help with interoperability and training of new help, such as dispatchers, and the board needs to do a better job. The board is not looking out for the first responders here.

Miller commented on the plan that the board had to be part of a regional organization consisting of Holt, Boyd, Antelope, Rock, Brown, Cherry and Sheridan Counties that was supposed to help consolidate resources by helping each other with training and emergency interoperability in cases of disaster when one center could take over for another and have their back. 

Miller also stated the region had fallen apart and was in trouble due to conflict with some board members. "Maybe it is time for us to consider getting rid of some of the board members and keep this board going in the right direction and keep the dispatching local and not get dispatched out of Scottsbluff or some other center that is far away, and I'm sure people in this building don't want that and darn sure the public doesn't want this. We have made great strides in this board since 2002. But I will tell you we have taken significant steps backward, and I'm not blaming the dispatchers because of their lack of experience, but I am blaming the board for this." "I know some personalities got in the way and a lot of micromanaging, and we lost many good dispatchers in the room tonight. Many of them would come right back if some changes were made here. The board should not manage the dispatch center on a day-to-day basis. You have a manager for that, and that has not happened. We need to move forward and not back."

"We are in a world of hurt, not just me but everybody in this room. Some of these board members are knocking us down as fast as we can get back up," said Miller

"Some of these members want to move to Knox County to get dispatched, referring to Boyd Holt 911 member Boyd County Sheriff Chuck Wrede. We talked last month about sending dispatchers to Antelope County to train, and nothing happened. I don't know how we can keep this running, especially within the last month, we lost three dispatchers. I would be interested in getting back on this board again to help get this straightened out and back on track," said Miller

Briener stated that the placement of the board members is not up to this particular board but that of the supervisors of both Holt and Boyd County.

Terry Krysl, a 26-year veteran dispatcher, spoke to the fact that in the last three years, there had not been a dispatch supervisor that had yet been able to pull the employees together to work as a unit. We had two liaisons to the board, and only one ever answered a call back. It's the little things that break the camel's back.

Bill Rahder, a technician, programmer and expert with the dispatching system and Atkinson Fireman and Paramedic, voiced his concern.

"I helped with the technical aspect of the equipment in the dispatch center and with the conversion to the E-911 address system and getting the mapping and other technical aspects of the center up and going."

"I want to speak to the Regional Aspect of the 911 Center. Three years ago, Region 24, a dispatching entity, dissolved, and we had everything ready. We had contracts to make up a new entity called the North Central Region. We had it set up so that O'Neill was the primary site, and we were to have spots from Antelope County out to Sheridan County from Neligh to Rushville and were set to take calls and operate a complete dispatching system."

"The representatives from our board showed up to the meetings the rest of the region felt that Boyd-Holt was trying to take control of the area." 

"The turmoil that has been going on at the board for the last few years has caused the loss of trust and integrity of moving forward in our regional project, and other members of the project may well be looking elsewhere to secure the safety of their residents and first responders."

"The counties don't think this will get straightened out until Boyd Holt 911 gets our issues straightened out, which are administrative and political issues; it is not our dispatchers. It is the personality issues of our board members. These personality issues have left us with good personnel  and a bunch of inexperienced personnel making errors every day because they are not trained, and now they don't have anybody to teach them. The board has pushed anybody with any experience out the door for one reason or the other. We are looking at a dire situation here. This is a board issue and nothing else, but this organization has gone downhill since it took. If we had some change on the board, we would have six dispatchers right back tomorrow."

Mark Liewer, a Holt County Deputy of 17 years, spoke to the board on some of the issues faced by law enforcement. "We need leadership in this organization. It took two weeks for me to get any response to a problem from your manager, and I had to go back to the manager and approach the problem myself. This is a management problem. We have some excellent dispatchers and some left, and it is all due to management. If officers need more confidence in the dispatchers and feel they don't like us, we have to worry about what is in front of us and who has our back. You know we rely on dispatchers to keep us safe, which all boils down to leadership."

Former dispatcher Bev McConnel said that,"the training is not done right and is pathetic because they are not getting trained right. If you can't get them trained right, then the communities won't want to pay you the fees they must pay for that service. You are paying the 911 supervisor and two others for the same work one supervisor did because they didn't want to do it."

"I have heard a lot of crap come across the radio. They need to find out where the boundaries are; they dispatch the wrong departments and give incorrect information. The first responders are the ones going to pay for it or the people that they are trying to help. Someone should be fired." 

Cora Caulkins, the former dispatch supervisor who started in 2008, took over leadership in 2013 and left in 2021, voiced her concerns.

"When I was running the center, we ran with six dispatchers. We worked as a team, and I would have put those dispatchers up against any in the state, including the Nebraska State Patrol." 

"Not one person complained about helping out or needing more money. This job has become more about money than anything."

"The assessments are going up, the organization is $70,000 in the hole, and their assessments are going up. I don't have any skin in this game besides my family and the people I had the privilege to work with. There must be standards in the dispatch center, those employed have to meet those standards, and those who can't shouldn't be there. Those people have to be able to work." 

"We had a surplus of cash and never doubled assessments. Information needs to be made available to the public, such as agendas at the meeting or requests for financial data from the board." 

"We were a premier single-seat dispatch and are now a joke across the state. It's only a matter of time before this collapses and this region breaks up. There is no way to tell if we will be dispatched here. Please don't believe this can't happen because it can. If we have to go to a statewide system, you will have to pay for it."

Board member Scott Menish, also the City of O'Neill's Mayor, said the 911 assessment for 2023 and 2024 is $161,145 paying for new training and this and that. Next year it will be $179,050. Atkinson assessments will be $65,300. Can the citizens of both counties afford this?

"I thought we were all on one team and to serve the people and take care of it," said Menish

"When a board member said that a three-year-old could do note-taking, three dispatchers walked out. We need to get a list of bills at our meetings."

" aThe citizens of Holt and Boyd County should be concerned as the entity that is a first line of help in serving the public by providing information to law enforcement, fire and ambulance service to its citizens is broken, and its governing board is as well."


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