Snow removal slowed on Dubuque County roads - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Snow removal slowed on Dubuque County roads

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DUBUQUE COUNTY (KWWL) -

Snow caught the short-staffed Dubuque County Secondary Roads Department off guard Wednesday.

Six union employees are in the middle of a two-week layoff as part of a budget-balancing measure.

At full staff, there are 28 drivers out clearing Dubuque County roads. Wednesday, county engineer Bret Wilkinson said, there were about half that many, between short staffing and vehicle maintenance.

All in all, the snow storm was a classic case of unfortunate timing.

"We were anticipating some flurries with the rain, but we did not expect that the accumulation of three to four inches of snow and slush to be on the road," Wilkinson said.

The clean-up effort would have been more efficient in Dubuque County, he said, but several employees were out on vacation or sick leave and four of the six employees on the two-week layoff are usually drivers.

"The six employees being laid off for two weeks should recover, approximately, 10 to 15 thousand dollars, depending on some variables in the financing," Wilkinson said.

The layoffs were the decision of the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors, after the Teamsters Local 120, representing the workers in the road crew, went to arbitration in the spring and won a two percent raise this fiscal year. The raise totals more than $40,000, and it wasn't in the county's budget.

Board of Supervisors chair Wayne Demmer said supervisors asked Wilkinson to, "try to find something in their budget that would try to be in the line item of personnel."

He said, in order to balance the budget after the arbitrated raise, Wilkinson would have to make cuts in the personnel area, instead of taking money from road repairs.

"We laid off some employees with the intent of having them back and ready for snow routes, but today, of course, nobody expected this much snow in such short time," Demmer said Wednesday.

"Most of the accumulation was on the ground in a half hour to 45 minutes," Wilkinson said. "If we had had all our full staff out with every vehicle we had, we still could not clear the roads in that amount of time."

The employees' two-week layoff ends next week.

Demmer said supervisors don't plan on cutting back the road crew workforce during the busy winter season. He said they'll have to look at the budget come spring and see if any more cuts are needed to make up the two percent raise.

The road crew workers are in one of four Dubuque County employee unions that fought for and won a two percent increase this fiscal year.

The other two unions accepted a wage freeze this year, with a two percent increase next year.

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