Alderman Ron Barone wants to hire a crew of part time seasonal workers to assist the Department of Public Works with road repairs in order to reduce the city’s reliance on outside contractors. At a committee meeting on Tuesday, Barone said the move will save the city money and help speed the completion of other jobs he said were not getting done in a timely manner.
Barone also leveled criticism at Department of Public Works General Foreman Ray Halgas who was not present at the meeting.
“We need to get a job done…I think it’s the lack of supervision why these jobs aren’t getting done,” said Barone.
After the meeting, Barone cited a job that he said has been in progress for several weeks in his ward on Harvard Ave, which he said should have only taken a several days.
Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler claimed that based on staff reports she has read from Halgas, that summer vacations were affecting the department’s ability to get work done.
“On Monday, [Halgas] had 12 people out. How are you supposed to field a work crew when you have twelve people out…he’s over-scheduling on vacations,” said Hatzenbuhler.
Union representative, and DWP employee Phil Bracchi disagreed. He said that the department was currently short-staffed and in the process of hiring more regular employees.
“It’s not a problem of vacations, it’s a lack of manpower,” said Bracchi.
“I think it is the vacations that is affecting the manpower during the summer season,” said Hatzenbuhler.
“You’d be saying the same thing if we take vacations in the winter…you have to work through it,” said Bracchi.
After the meetings, Mayor Ann Thane agreed with Bracchi and said that a shortage of staff and money was the problem.
In regards to hiring a seasonal crew, Thane said, “I wouldn’t be adverse to it, but I just don’t understand how with such a tight budget, they’re going to find money.”
“The bottom line is that we are short staffed and very tight budgetarily,” said Thane.
Council members said they had originally expected both City Engineer Rich Miller and Halgas to attend Tuesday’s meeting. Miller was unavailable that day, and it was unclear whether Halgas had specifically been invited to the meeting. Another meeting to discuss DPW operations was scheduled for next Tuesday at 3pm.