Due to a shortage of snowplow drivers, the state is shifting workers from central Nebraska to the Panhandle
LINCOLN — As a result of a lack of drivers for snowplows, the state of Nebraska is relocating workers from the center part of the state to the Panhandle in order to prepare for a blizzard that is predicted there this week.
On Tuesday, the head of the Nebraska Department of Transportation, John Selmer, informed a group of lawmakers from the state that his department is approximately 250 employees short of having drivers who are licensed to operate snowplows.
As a result of this, the Nevada Department of Transportation is relocating snowblower trucks and drivers to the Panhandle region, which is forecast to see blizzard conditions. Some may spend the night in that region, which is forecast to have snow as well as severe winds until Thursday.
According to a spokeswoman for the NDOT, “several” blowers, each with a team of three people, started heading west on Tuesday morning.
It is “fortunate” that only a portion of the state was damaged.
After the fact, Selmer stated to a reporter that the state is “lucky” that this storm is affecting only the western part of the state and not the entire state. This makes it possible to relocate crews that are in locations that are not affected.
He responded by stating, “That’s a storm we can handle.”
Because of the increasing salary for private jobs and the historically low unemployment rate in Nebraska (which was 2.4% in October), several state agencies have had trouble finding people to fill open positions.
The Nebraska Association of Public Employees, which is a union that represents state employees and negotiates for their wages, issued a warning earlier this fall that state salaries were “falling behind” as inflation hovered around 9%. The union’s statement was made in response to a previous warning that state salaries were “falling behind.”
There were 259 open positions in September.
The NDOT reported having 259 open positions for tasks that entail snow plowing in the month of September. The organization has begun giving signing bonuses of $4,000 for diesel mechanics who are hired in an effort to fill open positions.
Along with the workers who were transferred in, Selmer said Tuesday that certain office staff members who have a commercial drivers license will be called into service to assist with the blizzard that is expected to hit the Panhandle.
During the presentation of his annual report before the Appropriations Committee of the Legislature and the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee of the Legislature, he referred to it as “any warm body I can get out there.”
State Senator Tony Vargas of Omaha, who is a member of the Appropriations Committee and helps write the budget, questioned Selmer on whether or not the state ought to allocate more money for salaries in order to alleviate the shortage.
Selmer has indicated that wages is a component of the problem; nonetheless, the state and the NAPE are responsible for negotiating salaries.
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