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City Of St. Louis Is Trying To Fill Over 100 Job Openings After Lifting Hiring Freeze

The City of St. Louis is experiencing an employee shortage after freezing new hires for a year.
File photo / David Kovaluk
St. Louis Public Radio
The City of St. Louis is experiencing an employee shortage after freezing new hires for a year.

The City of St. Louis has more than 100 job openings right now, and the vacancies are disrupting some essential city services, including 911 dispatches.

Mayor Tishaura Jones’ administration is pushing to fill the positions after lifting a hiring freeze last month. In spring 2020, then-Mayor Lyda Krewson enacted the freeze, facing uncertain budget projections in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.

“St. Louis is on the path to recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, and this is an opportunity for residents to play an important role in our city’s comeback,” Jones said in a press release. “If we can fill these critical vacancies, we can not only improve public services, but also support St. Louis residents and their families with good-paying jobs.”

Open positions include emergency dispatchers, mechanics, nurses and seasonal parks jobs. Most city employees are required to live in St. Louis. (Exceptions include seasonal employees and police officers.)

City employees have access to health insurance and life insurance. The pay starts at $15 an hour.

The Department of Public Safety has one of the highest numbers of vacancies and is struggling to hire emergency dispatchers. St. Louis emergency dispatchers answer more than 1,200 calls to 911 in a typical day.

The majority of people calling are in crisis and need help from police or fire departments, but some St. Louis residents have been put on hold.

Interim Public Safety Director Dan Isom said the city needs around 25 more dispatchers to reduce wait times for callers.

“Although the majority of calls are taken, if there is a substantial influx of calls, then certainly the number of dispatchers on duty at any given time will make a difference,” he said.

Isom advises 911 callers who are put on hold to stay there. Don’t hang up and call again, because every new caller drops to the end of the queue. Isom said wait times should be less than two minutes, if a caller is put on hold.

Jones is starting a committee to find ways to make it easier to apply, as part of the issue with filling the jobs lies in the application process, said Nick Dunne, a spokesperson for the mayor.

“[We want to ensure] that the way that we conduct our hiring practices is equitable, but also accessible to everyone, regardless of the level of technology that's accessible to them,” he said.

Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake

Kayla is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.