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posted: 1/10/2013 10:41 PM

With future unclear, Island Lake residents defend dispatchers

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As Island Lake officials negotiate a possible contract with the union representing the town's police dispatchers, a handful of residents on Thursday urged the village board to retain the employees and not outsource the service.

A few residents shared stories during Thursday's village board meeting about times they had to call 911 for police assistance and praised the dispatchers for initiating speedy responses.

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"I think local dispatchers are important to our community," said resident John Ponio, a former trustee.

Ponio's wife, Teresa, a candidate for village clerk, also defended the dispatchers' work. Only local staffers would know local landmarks someone might refer to when calling 911, she said.

Island Lake employs six full-time dispatchers. They've been represented by a union since 2003, but have been without a contract since 2010, finance director John Little said.

The dispatchers cost the village about $355,815 a year in salary, payroll taxes, insurance and other costs, Little said.

Village officials have been mum about whether they're seeking to outsource dispatch service. Many suburban police departments team up to provide the service or use a larger dispatch unit.

The residents spoke about the dispatchers at the start of the meeting. Among them was Mark Beeson, a trustee candidate in the April election, who asked why the board isn't discussing possible outsourcing publicly. If such talks were open, Beeson said, "we can hear what the cost benefit is."

Beeson also expressed concern that a decision might be reached before the public can have a say on the matter. "And then our comments really will be moot," Beeson said.

None of the trustees responded to the various comments, nor did Mayor Debbie Herrmann.

The board took no action on the issue Thursday.

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