Summit County roads are still getting plowed despite staffing shortages
CDOT is down about 20%, and all the towns are hiring
With snow falling consistently across Summit County since Christmas Eve, local municipalities need to stock up on plow drivers.
Scott Jackman, streets and parks manager for Breckenridge, said the town is struggling to find seasonal drivers, meaning his full-time staff has more responsibility on their plates.
“Our full-time staff has stepped up for a lot of the needed coverage, whether that be adapting their schedules, working overtime,” Jackman said. “(They’re) really taking a lot of pride in the town, and I’m super thankful for what our full-time staff do.”
Breckenridge has staff scheduled for 24-hour street coverage across three shifts, which Jackman said allows them to respond to emergencies or sand calls at any time. He said the town will also work with local contractors to assist with hauling snow and, in some cases, plowing. This has been a bit more common with the limited staff recently.
“It is taking longer to get our roads and our parking lots ready for the next storm,” Jackman said. “… Everything’s getting done; it’s just taking a little bit longer.”
Street plow drivers need a commercial driver’s license, but town parks departments have sidewalk plow operators who don’t necessarily need one. Jackman said there are some folks in the parks department who have their license and will help with plowing and hauling as needed.
The town is still hiring for multiple seasonal positions as well as one full-time position. Jackman said the town will also hire folks who don’t have a commercial driver’s license but have some relevant experience, and the town will train them to get a license.
In Silverthorne, Public Works Director Tom Daugherty said they’ve done fairly well staffing up for the season. He said the town has two supervisor positions open, one in the streets department and one in the parks department, which doesn’t require a commercial license, similar to Breckenridge.
Daugherty said Silverthorne doesn’t have seasonal staff helping out in the winter, so all plow drivers are full-time, year-round staff.
On days when there isn’t necessarily snow to plow, Daugherty said the staff will spend the day moving snow around so there’s more room to plow for the next storm by dropping sand in icy intersections or parking lots as needed and sweeping on the days when it’s warm enough that the road starts to show.
Daugherty said all the local public works directors are in contact and that if any municipality need help, they’re always able to ask one another.
Frisco Public Works Director Jeff Goble wrote in an email that Frisco is down one year-round position in the streets division, which plows streets in the winter. He said the town typically hires two seasonal staff members to help with plowing, but it was able to fill only one of these positions this year. Frisco is also short one grounds staff person to help with clearing sidewalks.
“Our main priority is to retain our current staff by respecting them and their expertise,” Goble wrote in an email. “Because of this approach, we have retained reliable and exceptionally skilled staff and recruited some new staff who have brought great skills and expertise to our operations. We strive to be the best and most supportive work team in Summit County, so we can meet the community’s needs and keep streets and sidewalks safe.”
For the Colorado Department of Transportation, there is a statewide network of folks who pitch in when necessary to cover the department’s jurisdiction. Communications Director Matt Inzeo said its maintenance team is about 1,600 people. He said most years, the team’s vacancy rests around 10%, but through 2021 and into 2022, it’s been closer to 20% statewide.
“Our statewide footprint and our size can give us a flexibility that others might not have the opportunity to use,” Inzeo said. “That’s just an operational approach that we can change that gets us the level of service that we need to put out and just lets us be a little bit more targeted about it than maybe we had been in years past.”
Inzeo said CDOT put in place a snow bonus for the first time this year, meaning operators who are available for every snow shift will get an extra $2,000 at the end of the season. He said the department has also started recruiting entry-level workers who might not have a commercial driver’s license but could be trained to get one. Over the past three months, CDOT has been getting closer to a normal staffing situation, but it’s continuously hiring.
CDOT’s Deputy Maintenance Superintendent Kane Schneider said the department is staffed 24/7 on snow shifts. He said proactive planning is the most essential piece when it comes to bigger storms, and they always have pre-storm winter meetings. Schneider said CDOT will coordinate with groups like the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and the National Weather Service to ensure the team is prepared for various scenarios.
“A lot of times, our pre-winter calls can actually have up to 110, 115 individuals on it including our stakeholders,” Schneider said. “… It’s so much easier to manage a storm when you’re out being proactive instead of trying to react to something. If you’ve got to react to something, you’re usually going to lose when it comes to Mother Nature.”
Schneider said Summit County in particular has a lot of average daily traffic since so many folks come from across the state and that, above all else, it’s important for folks to plan ahead to handle a storm on Interstate 70.
“It really goes a long, long ways if folks who are traveling are prepared to go in and deal with (the) High Country and high volumes of snow and traffic,” Schneider said.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.
Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.
Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.