Archive for Thursday, July 20, 2000

City departments stressed from lack of help

July 20, 2000

City workers are feeling stress from lack of help, due to increased turnover in Eudora's utility departments.

Eudora City Superintendent Bill Harlow said the water treatment plant, wastewater plant and electric department are understaffed. Though ads placed in area media have yielded some results, no one has been hired. Of the three departments, Harlow said, the wastewater plant is in the most need.

"What I need will probably come down to three people at the wastewater treatment plant," Harlow said. "I've got ads out and so far I've got no wastewater treatment people coming in. I've got people coming in who want to work, but have no experience."

Earlier this month, the plant lost its operator and John Wilson, wastewater worker, left Tuesday. After seven months working for the plant, Wilson said he couldn't take the stress any longer.

"There's just not enough help," Wilson said. "I felt like everything was on my shoulders."

To cope with the loss of Wilson, water plant worker Bill Hadl was pulled from the water plant to work the wastewater plant.

"I'm working here because there's no one else to do it," Hadl said.

After Wilson upped his leaving date from July 31 to Tuesday, Wilson was given the task to train Hadl during his remaining time.

"I'm trying to force feed him until someone else comes in," Wilson said.

Pulling Hadl to work at the wastewater plant has also stressed water plant workers. Without a certified wastewater plant operator, Showalter, water plant department foreman, is short a worker from his plant. He is also the only one qualified to fill out paperwork for the wastewater plant.

"Nobody else knows how to," Showalter said. "The person who knew how to quit earlier this month. I'm the only one employed by the city how can do the paperwork."

For now, Hadl will run the physical aspects of the plant with Showalter filling out the paperwork when needed. Despite the arrangement, Hadl has concerns.

"Sure, I can go though the motions but it takes time to learn all this," he said. "It takes two or three people all the time to do this."

In addition to his lack of wastewater education, Hadl is concerned about his days off. His schedule is to work 10 days with four days off, rotating Friday through Monday off every other weekend. Without another wastewater plant worker, Hadl is unsure of who will run the plant when he's off.

"When my 10 days run out, it's not going to be me," Hadl said. "It's going to be some phantom I guess."

The electric department is also suffering from lack of help. With the loss of an electrical foreman and lineman in June, Harlow said additional stress has been put on the remaining two lineman and electric department head Eldon Brown. With hired summer help working on other projects throughout the city, workers are free to focus solely on needed electrical work.

"There's a lot of work that we can't do because of the help," Harlow said. "I'm short handed that's for sure. The summer crew helps a lot. With them here it won't be quite as bad. We're coping with it."

Harlow said the electric department has had less than adequate help, even when four linemen were working for the city.

"Six wouldn't hurt, but four would be good," Harlow said. "What we'd like to do is two, three-man crews. This is what we've been after for two years but haven't had much luck."

Much of the problem lies with a lack of experience in applicants. Some who apply have no experience and some without experience don't take the job due to the low pay. Pay for inexperienced workers for all departments begins at $10.50 per hour and is adjusted according to experience. Harlow said he has noticed the starting pay to be a factor in determining if an applicant wants the job. Wilson agrees.

"Obviously it is," Wilson said. "And that's why they're having problems hiring somebody.

For now, a solution remains to be seen. There are three applicants for electric linemen positions, but Harlow said he has nothing definite. All three have had either schooling or real-world experience.

"Whether they will work out for us or not, it's hard to tell," Harlow said.

In the meantime, electric workers on staff have received a pay raise. What is left now is to wait for responses to ads. If needed, Harlow said the right person could be trained for the wastewater treatment plant.

"We like to have a year to two years service in the wastewater, but if not we can train them," Harlow said.

But Showalter said certified workers must be found for the job, otherwise the hirings would be pointless.

"They need to hire somebody as fast as possible, but they need to hire somebody that's certified," he said. "If not, you're no better off."

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