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W.Va. dispatchers get $5,000 pay raise

February 12, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- After all seven full-time West Virginia State Police dispatchers left their jobs at a dispatching center in Bardane, W.Va., this summer, pay for the jobs has been increased by $5,000, a state police official said.

When the dispatchers left the center, starting pay for a state police dispatcher was about $16,500 a year.

By comparison, starting dispatchers could earn about $31,000 a year at Jefferson County's 911 center, about $27,000 at Berkeley County's 911 center and about $25,000 at the Martinsburg Police Department, state police officials said.

Local officials said the situation was another example of how low salaries for state employees are affecting state government operations in the Eastern Panhandle.

The $5,000 pay raise for dispatchers went into effect at the beginning of the month, state police Lt. Col. Steve Tucker said.

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There is a concern about low pay for other clerical workers working for the state police and Gov. Joe Manchin has proposed a 3 percent pay raise for all state employees, which would include troopers, said Tucker, who is second in command within the state police force.

When the seven full-time dispatchers left the Bardane facility, state police dispatchers in Romney, W.Va., helped handle calls, officials said.

At the time, 1st Sgt. Eric Burnett, who works in the Bardane center, said he was concerned about trooper safety.

If a trooper is involved in a disturbance or some other emergency in the Eastern Panhandle and only has a few seconds to call for help, there is a possibility that trooper might not get the help he or she needs because the dispatchers in Romney are busy dealing with other troopers and calls, Burnett said.

One day recently, the Romney dispatchers had trouble maintaining contact with local troopers, said Capt. Rob Blair, who oversees state police operations Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties.

State police in Jefferson County had to "improvise" by sending a trooper in the Bardane dispatching center to handle calls, Blair said.

There are five vacant dispatching jobs at Bardane, but some candidates are in the process of being screened for the jobs. Tucker said he hopes that number will be reduced to four soon.

Meanwhile, state police are trying to dispatch local calls from the Bardane facility during the day as much as possible, Tucker said.

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