The Rivercom 9-1-1 service for Chelan and Douglas counties is developing a bonus program to fill a shortage of emergency dispatchers, or telecommunicators. 

Currently, only 21 out of 31 dispatch positions are filled. 

Rivercom Executive Director Doug Jones says it's an acute and ongoing problem. 

"When we looked at our highest risk factors when we do, kind of, our annual assessments and things like that, staffing for the last two years has been our No. 1 concern," said Jones. "And we've got some really good professionals, but they could use some help." 

Current staff dispatchers work voluntary overtime every month but must also work additional mandatory overtime because of the shortage. 

RiverCom's administrative board approved an incentive program last week that is being negotiated with the Teamsters Local Union 760, which represents the emergency dispatchers. 

Jones says they're developing the program to attract new dispatchers and keep current personnel in place. 

"We definitely want to recognize with both the incredibly hard work that our dispatchers do and the added stress that they're under as far as the short staffing, the overtime that they're doing," Jones said. 

The bonus program includes a $2,000 bonus for dispatchers who stay through June and $3,000 if they stay through December. 

There's also a bonus of up to $5,000 for new hires who come on board fully trained, with $2,500 provided for moving expenses. 

In addition, people who refer someone to Rivercom who is successfully hired would be rewarded with $1,500. 

Jones said part of the staffing issue stems from an increase in dispatchers as the board approved a staffing increase from 29 to 31 dispatchers in the last budget cycle to align with an increase in the area’s population. 

He also said they have 24 of 37 positions filled when supervisors are considered. Supervisors are currently doubling as dispatchers with the staff shortage. 

Rivercom will be offering free testing to hire dispatchers for its fall training academy.  The testing will take place on May 18 in East Wenatchee. 

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