Hiring rebound brings optimism to Knox County dispatch, other depts

Fri, 01/19/2024 - 8:45pm

    Knox County administrators are taking a moment to celebrate some positive news this weekend. Though work is still required in returning the County to a fully staffed and self-supporting district, a certain detail is providing much needed optimism.

    Seventeen new County employees have been hired in just a few weeks, according to Sheriff Patrick Polky. And, though new hires are also entering the Corrections and Patrol divisions, attention this week is centered on the communications department. Seven dispatcher positions have been filled, bringing staffing back up to 11 seats filled out of 14 after a turbulent time when 10 out of 14 seats were vacant.

    “The fact that we’ve had this huge rebound in such a short amount of time...,” said Polky. “I just wanted to say to the public, ‘Thank you for lobbying the County Commissioners to pass this. It did, in fact, help.’”

    Step one had been to hire a Human Resource manager to come in, assess the working environments and pinpoint issues that could have spurred the rough spell when Corrections was down 50 percent, the Law Enforcement side lost five deputies in three weeks after finally filling five other vacancies, and then the Dispatch issues (which are not under the Sheriff’s purview, but he was asked to coordinate the efforts to find solutions).

    The HR manager concluded that some of the issues stemmed from not having appropriate wages and competitive benefits packages.

    Based on this analysis, Commissioners were asked in December 2023 to approve a sizable increase in the 2024 budget, thereby returning employees to comparable wages and benefits package.

    “That actually worked as we’ve been able to hire quite a few people,” said Polky.

    Polky and the County have also participated in pay negotiations with workers’ unions. The law enforcement contract has been completed. However, the Communications’ union and Corrections’ union negotiations are still in process.

    At the same time, the new hires need to be trained before departments can be fully reopened. And though the Knox Regional Communications Center is surging forward again, the Public Utilities Commission is keeping in play the current collaboration with Waldo County Communications until the PUC has a chance to observe the KRCC in action. The date of that assessment has not been determined. Therefore, for another month or so, 911 calls will still be answered initially by Waldo County dispatchers before being transferred back to Knox County.

    The Patrol Division currently has four new hires – 1 currently at the Criminal Justice Academy, 1 sidelined with an injury, 1 already working shifts, and a fourth starting next week.

    The County is still looking for 3 dispatchers, 5 corrections officers, and 2 law enforcement deputies.

    Interested parties can submit questions to sheriff@knoxcountymaine.gov, find info and/or submit hiring questions via Facebook, and fill out applications through Indeed or the Knox County websites.


    Reach Sarah Thompson at news@penbaypilot.com