HENRIETTA, N.Y. (WROC) — With winter weather around the corner, town crews are getting ready to get to work, making sure the roads stay clear and safe. Some towns have had to get creative with incentives to bring in a full staff by the time the snow falls.
Before the snow arrives, a top priority for departments of public works across the region is to recruit and retain enough manpower to treat the roads.
Timothy Lessing serves as highway superintendent in the town of Henrietta, and says for much of the year, his department was shorthanded. So, the town worked to change that.
“We have a proposal to the union to offer a stipend for plowing and salting during winter operations. And, we also raised motor equipment operators’ wages a dollar. That’s already in effect, but the proposal has gone out to the union,” said Lessing.
The incentives brought the departments’ staff up to 23 people, along with a mechanic, leaving them short by only one extra position. Still, Lessing says every bit of help counts.
“We do have the fail-safe option of borrowing somebody from another department, although it does make their responsibilities a little tough if we’d borrow but, the roads are the most important thing to get done during snow season,” said Lessing.
Back in the 90s, town municipal jobs were highly desired. That was over state retirement, and other benefits. Now, the same working conditions as back then aren’t as appealing to the younger generation, said Lessing.
“You had to get in line for these kinds of jobs back in the 90s. You had to know somebody or have a special skill attractive to the towns. Looking forward, we’re concerned about having enough people and having a younger staff. It’s hard to get a younger staff attracted to this type of position,” said Lessing.
As Henrietta gets its staff trained and prepared for routes this winter, Lessing says he’s hopeful for the industry as a whole.
“I’m confident the staff we have training those people. They do a phenomenal job and they’ll have them ready by December, so we should be good,” said Lessing.
For more information on winter road policies this season, visit your local municipalities’ website.