Oak Creek May Face Shortage of Snow Plow Drivers
Retirements could make things challenging for the Oak Creek Street Department.
A high number of retirements could leave the Oak Creek Street Department short-handed when it has to battle snowstorms this winter.
As many as five operators and two mechanics could retire at the end of December, Street Superintendent Mike Lampe said. Three retirements are confirmed while four others are on the fence.
Because of the work that goes into hiring new employees - such as advertising the position and administering a Civil Service exam - there could be a lag time in hiring new employees.
So how would the city make up for the loss of snow-plow drivers in the interim?
"It's a tough question," Lampe said.
"Five operators leaving right now would leave me with two routes open that I don’t have replacements for. It would also leave me three guys short for garbage pickup."
One idea city officials are tossing around is contracting with retired snow plow drivers who live in the area, City Administrator Gerald Peterson said.
But even that would have its pitfalls.
"As guys get older, we run into the problem where they get tired a lot easier," Lampe said. "And who wants to get called out at midnight or 1:00 in the morning to come into work for three, four hours?
Lampe said the retirements are happening largely because of the changes brought on by Act 10, better known as the controversial law that required many public employees to pay more for insurance and their pensions.
Ultimately, the retirements would help the city's budget situation, as lower-paid employees would replace long-time workers earning higher wages.
But city officials say they want to make sure service doesn't drop off during blizzards, like the one that dumped 18 inches last February. That's one of the many challenges that Oak Creek and other communities face in the wake of the new state law, which also freezes municipal property tax levies.
"Mike and I, and I'm sure the council, is going to have ongoing discussions about how to deal with ... the post-Act 10 environment," Peterson said. "It's a change for everyone."