County roads will see less snowplowing due to operator shortage
Most county roads will only get plowed once a day this winter — even during heavy snowstorms — with Grand short nearly half the snowplow operators it would typically employ.
Road and Bridge Superintendent Chris Baer explained that the county is short 16 operators of the 35 positions. With such a high shortage, users of county roads will notice some changes, especially on the eastern end of the county.
“Typically in the past, when we’re fully staffed, we can get through most of our roads a second time on a bad storm,” Baer said. “This year we’re not going to be able to do that. We’re going to try to get everything plowed one time every day that it snows, but even that might be a challenge.”
There will be no night crew for plowing either. That means a road that gets plowed in the morning likely won’t get cleared again until the following day regardless of the weather.
“The biggest impacts will be on the east end because Grand County’s never run a night crew on the west end of the county,” Baer explained. “… With the ski area and the buses and things like that, the east just in general will probably see the biggest impacts because that’s where we get the most of our snow.”
The road and bridge department has been advertising the open positions, but many of the factors that go into hiring for operators are outside the department’s control.
Like most employers across the county, the high cost of living and housing shortage has made it hard for Baer to recruit operators. Along with the federal requirements that come with the Commercial Driver’s License needed to operate the plows, finding plow operators has been tricky despite wages starting at $22-$23 an hour.
“I really, truly believe that equipment operators are really a dying breed,” Baer said. “I just don’t know that people still have an interest to do this kind of work.”
The Colorado Department of Transportation has also been struggling to hire plow operators. According to reporting by the Summit Daily, last month there were about 30 vacancies for CDOT Regions 1 and 3, the regions that encompass Grand County and nearby areas.
A spokesperson from the state agency told the Summit Daily it would prioritize plowing on roads that see the most use, especially major highways. Other areas, like north of Kremmling, might not be as high of a priority because they see fewer drivers.
Drivers are asked to be patient and be prepared for driving in the snow. Residents and visitors should consider stocking their vehicles with tire chains or snow socks, a solar powered phone charger, blankets, extra hats, gloves, road flares, shovel, flashlight, first aid kit, and water.
County snowplow operators will focus on primary roads that serve as traffic arteries before plowing secondary, subdivision roads. Residents can see the order of snow plow routes on county roads at http://www.co.grand.co.us/338/Snow-Plow-Routes.
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