LAKE CITY, SC (WBTW) – Florence County Council approved a pay raise for emergency dispatchers Thursday night, in what it hopes is a move to recruit more people to this challenging position.
Council unanimously approved the $4,000 raise Thursday night at its meeting in Lake City. It’s the first pay raise for dispatchers in the county in more than 15 years.
The vote means all dispatch personnel in the Central Dispatch Division will see that raise on their paycheck come this November 25th. Florence County Emergency Management Director Dusty Owens said Thursday’s vote was just the beginning of the county’s plans to upgrade emergency services.
“This is part of a larger study to look at ways we can improve the quality of service that Florence county provides to not only our citizens but to our first responders,” Owens explained.
The vote brings the minimum salary for dispatchers in Florence County to nearly $31,000. That’s higher than the minimum for dispatchers in similar-sized counties in the state like Berkley and Dorchester in the Charleston area.
It also makes salaries for Florence County dispatchers higher than those in Horry County. Owens said he also hopes the raise will help recruit new dispatchers.
“We actually have the best dispatchers in the state,” Owens smiled. “I know everyone says that, but we have the awards to back it up.”
In fact, in two of the last five years, the SC Dispatcher of the Year has come from Florence County.
“We have incredibly talented individuals that work in our department,” Owens said.
He said Florence County is currently short four full-time and three part-time dispatchers, spots that need to be filled to best protect and serve the community.
“No one calls 911 when things are going well.”
Owens said this is just the first step in a larger plan to improve service in the county.
“We’re looking at some different technologies and also at how we’re structured and how many dispatchers we have,” Owens said.
Anyone can apply to be a dispatcher, an application is available on the county website. Those wanting to earn a spot have to pass several tests and then prove that they can stand up to the pressures of this sometimes mentally difficult job.