Workers remaining after layoff can handle reduced workload: public works deputy manager
The deputy manager of public works for St. John’s says the city’s reduced snowclearing staff will be able to handle the spring’s final snowfalls.
At Monday’s regular city council meeting, Paul Mackey acknowledged the concern expressed Monday after it was reported that the city laid off temporary snowclearing staff last week, as it does every year at this time.
An employee of the City of St. John’s turns onto Stamps Lane from Empire Avenue on Monday afternoon in a snow plow. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
The news came on a day St. John’s was hit by nearly 20 centimetres of snow, with more expected Wednesday.
“The third week of March is our normal time when we scale back our operations after a full winter season,” he said.
“We go from a total of 180 operators down to 50, but when we have the 180, they’re spread out over three shifts, actually, so there’s actually only 60 working at any given time on a shift.”
Mackey said the 50 current workers were out Monday, resp-onding as the city normally would.
“The concern, of course, is that if we get back-to-back storms or extended storms, how will we address those kinds of things?” Mackey said, adding there are a few factors to consider. “One is that we can work overtime, so those people that are working today can work up to 16 hours, so we cover off those types of situations with overtime.”
As of Friday, the city has spent $348,222 on snowclearing overtime, 16 per cent more than its budgeted amount of $300,000 for all of 2014.
“The other thing that we do is, of the people that are laid off or reassigned to spring jobs, there’s about 30 operators among the group that are still with the city in different divisions,” said Mackey. “So we have the ability to recall them or reassign them during a storm to assist and to help out and to back up the 50 people that are on the normal day shift.”
This time of year, the city is finished with snow removal and snowblower operations, said Mackey. “When we get snow now, it’ll likely melt before we have to truck it. We have everything pretty well blown back and removed, and there’s room to push back for a storm. So the actual workload is a lot less in terms of snow-clearing. We’re primarily doing ice control and plowing, and we’re not doing those other activities that would take up a lot of those staff that would be on during the winter time.”
So far this year, the city has spent $5.6 million of the $16 million budgeted for snow clearing in 2014, about $742,000 more than anticipated for the year-to-date. The biggest dents in the year-to-date expenditures are overtime — the amount budgeted for the year-to-date is just $130,000, less than half the amount spent — and salt. So far, the city has spent $1.9 million on salt, up from the $1.35 million anticipated by this date and more than half of the $3.15-million budgeted. The city has also spent $96,000 on truck rentals, more than six times the $15,000 allocated for all of 2014.