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City still struggling to fill linemen positions

The City of Columbia is still struggling to hire linemen.

ABC 17 reported in June that the city’s benchmark for line crews was 19 line workers and 10 apprentices. At that time Columbia Water and Light had 13 line workers and eight apprentices.

Water and Light Advisory Board members on Thursday discussed a proposal to make mid-year changes to the budget. Those changes include moving several line crew positions that are vacant to help pay better wages to workers.

The advisory board ultimately decided it would support the cuts, but with the caution it was only a first step to resolving issues in the department.

Jim Windsor, a former assistant director of Columbia Water and Light, said this plan would not do anything to fix the city’s problem.

“Well it will misrepresent the reality in going forward because if they remove some positions then they can say, ‘Well we really don’t have half of our position gone,'” Windsor said. “It’s that much less because they’ve done away with a couple of positions.”

“To get rid of a couple positions so it can look good on the budget, is a, you know, it’s smoke and mirrors,” Windsor said.

Windsor said the city needs to pay the workers a competitive wage in order to hire and keep skilled workers. He said right now the city is counting on departments from other cities to help in extreme situations.

He said having that many vacant positions can cause safety issues because there may not be enough supervision and crews have to work significant amounts of overtime. He also said it can affect customers because it takes longer to respond to calls.

“It is irresponsible, from my view, that they don’t value people’s work,” he said.

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