Staff shortage may affect plowing in Fraser Valley |

Staff shortage may affect plowing in Fraser Valley

Hank Shell

County manager search continues

The Grand County Board of Commissioners is continuing its search for a new county manager, according to a statement released Oct. 19.

“Grand County has not selected any finalist(s) for the County Manager position at this time,” the statement reads. “This is an ongoing process and update(s) will be provided as more information becomes available.”

The Grand County Road and Bridge Department will change its plowing schedule from split 4-10 shifts to a 5-8 shift with weekend and swing shift coverage in the Fraser Valley.

Road and Bridge Director Ken Haynes suggested that the county bring plowing operations in its busiest district in line with the rest of the county to maintain seven-day service with a smaller staff.

“I do not have enough people to maintain a good 4-10 schedule with seven-day coverage,” Haynes told the board of county commissioners on Oct. 13. “I still want to maintain the seven-day swing shift because I think that’s very crucial over in that area.”

The district recently lost an employee, leaving 11 employees to cover its seven routes, Haynes said.

During the week, eight employees will cover the district’s seven routes for the regular shift. Three to four employees will staff the swing shift seven days a week from 2:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

A rotating shift of two personnel will come in early on weekends to check for snow or wind damage and relay the information to a district foreman to determine whether employees should be called in.

Last year, the department staff split 4-10 shifts providing coverage all week long.

Drawing on his personal records from past winters, Haynes said El Niño years similar to 2015 had produced mild winters.

“I’m not a forecaster or Weatherman Bowman here, but it looks very similar to ’97 and 2009 and the El Niño those years,” Haynes said. “We had very little moisture and very moderate temperatures.”

If the district experiences more snowfall than anticipated, then the department will have more overtime, Haynes said.

“It happens, but I guess we’ll just have to do a crapshoot on this,” Haynes said. “We don’t have the manpower.”

Commissioner James Newberry disagreed with Haynes’ assertion that the department was understaffed, saying that the staff wouldn’t need to cover every route during the week.

“You don’t plow seven routes every time you come in,” Newberry said. “This is an age old argument. You don’t plow seven routes every time you come in. It may snow on Sunday; it may snow on Thursday. You still have the same issue.”

Weekend shift raises concerns

Newberry observed that if the department has to call employees in, then employee absenteeism could affect whether routes get plowed on the weekends.

“The flipside, the downside is, let’s say it’s Broncos Sunday,” Newberry said. “It snows like a banshee down there or anywhere. People were deciding whether they wanted to come in or not.”

Commissioner Kris Manguso questioned why staff wouldn’t prioritize routes based on use and conditions.

That’s a possibility, Haynes said.

“It’s realistic if it’s done properly like I want it to be done,” Haynes said.

Unfortunately, Haynes said, that doesn’t always work because employees aren’t always available to come in.

Commissioner Merrit Linke called the problem “a personnel problem, not a policy problem.”

Newberry said he “didn’t understand the rationale” for keeping eight employees staffed throughout the week then calling in employees during the weekend.

Newberry said he believed roads in the Fraser Valley were used more over the weekends than during the week.

“If you want to go away from the seven days a week and just tell them to do their job and don’t micromanage then do it, but I’ll tell you what, I’m going to come down a lot harder than I have in the past, because I’m the one who’s going to get my rear end chewed,” Newberry said.

Manguso said that telling Haynes which shifts to use was “too much.”

Linke said it was the board’s intent to give Haynes more responsibility over the departments operations.

“If it affects our level of service, we need to be prepared for that,” Linke said.

Newberry added that he was “on the record for disagreeing wholeheartedly” with the new schedule.

Haynes said he could revert to the split shift if the new schedule doesn’t work.

Manguso and Linke offered their support for the new schedule.

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