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Staffing issues may affect winter clearing of state, local roads

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

Staffing issues have affected nearly every sector across the nation this year and that's unlikely to change over the winter.

The Missouri Department of Transportation said it's several hundred employees short of typical staffing levels going into winter -- when MoDOT crews are likely to be called on to keep roads clear of snow and ice.

"We are behind the market in what we pay for folks to come to work for us, so that's required us to take a really hard look at how we're going to operate this winter," MoDOT Chief Engineer Ed Hassinger said.

Hassinger says the biggest concern for MoDOT is a statewide storm that lasts more than a day and requires multiple shifts. "It's just going to take longer, we haven't changed any of our priorities, and haven't changed how we're going to approach to the storm, but it could take longer just because we won't be able to fill every truck every shift if we have those long-term storms," Hassinger said.

When the winter weather settles in, MoDOT will have available crews out in full force, he said.

"When we go into snow mode, we work 12-hour shifts and we keep working until we're done," Hassinger said. "We will have every available person that's certified to plow snow in a truck this winter, and they will continue to work on getting the roads clear until we get there."

Local public works departments say their staffing issues aren't as severe as MoDOT's.

Britt Smith with Jefferson City Public Works said his agency is fully staffed.

"We're very happy that we're fully staffed, but it's definitely a different environment than it's been in years past," Smith said. "We've had a couple of openings that we had to fill and getting qualified applicants, and we didn't get nearly the number of applicants that we would typically get."

Richard Stone with Columbia Public Works said his city is in a similar situation. "We are going into the winter with the same level of staffing that we had last year," Stone said.

However, Stone said Columbia Public Works borrows resources from other divisions throughout the city to help fill out the winter weather response roster, and those other divisions and departments are experiencing some staffing strain.

Crews are preparing with their current staff for the upcoming winter.

"Making sure that our bins are full of salt, which we've done for the year, and right now is really about checking the equipment," Smith said. "We have 24 trucks that we have to go through, set up with plow spreaders and make sure that they're all working right."

Hassinger preached patience. "Let's just be patient this winter and take it storm by storm," he said.

MoDOT is encouraging people to limit travel during any winter storms.

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Chanel Porter

Chanel joined ABC 17 News in January 2021 after graduating from Penn State University. She enjoys traveling and a daily iced coffee.

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