WASTE WATCHBig Overtime Costs
from Eyewitness News Online
Homeland Security Emergency Line Costing Hundreds Of Thousands In Extra Pay
October 25, 2012
When there is a mine disaster, suspicious fire, environmental problem or school safety concern, chances are a call is made to one of these two telephones.
Housed in the basement of the state capitol, two workers are on the job every hour of every day, standing by to take information about possible problems throughout the state.
But a review by the legislative auditor's office shows massive amounts of overtime paid the past six years to staff this call center.
"We found that it was a significant cost to the state," said Gail Higgins, a Senior Research Analyst with the Legislative Auditor's Office. "That it wasn't economical to run the communications center the way that they are presently running it."
Since 2006, call center overtime costs total 900-thousand dollars. The audit showed if those same shifts had been taken care of by permanent part-time workers, the cost would have been 321-thousand dollars.
Having enough people on the payroll to handle the call center would have saved taxpayers 579-thousand dollars.
"We always look at how we can save money because at the end of the day it's all on the bottom line," said Jimmy Gianato, Director of West Virginia Homeland Security and Emergency Services. "You know, we want to do this the most cost-effective way we can but we still have to take care of the needs of the citizens and that's a key thing."
The legislature funds the call center, which Homeland Security has divided into six full-time and four part-time positions.
"The largest problem is we've not been able to find qualified people that are willing to work the hours that this position requires as well as for the amount of money the position pays," Gianato said.
Legislative auditors say it's important for the department to make hiring enough workers a priority. In some cases, individual staffers manning the phones made up to 18-thousand dollars a year in OT. That affects the bottom line now..and in the future because of increased pension costs.
"In paying overtime in this way not only was the cost to the state in the current period that we examined but also pensions will be higher in the future," Higgins said.
West Virginia Homeland Security is still looking to fill three part-time position for the emergency call center. For move information go to www.wv.gov and click on "Employment" to get started.
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