Steamboat Springs Ten Australian bus drivers scheduled to arrive in Steamboat Springs by mid-October are still not here, and it's costing the city thousands of dollars.
Visas for the workers have been delayed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of Labor, said Maria Porter, the owner of Viable Resources, which contracted with the city to secure the visas. Porter, who also works for the Sheraton and Steamboat Resorts, said she is used to the delays for work visas but hoped they would not be as bad this year. She said she doesn't think the delay was necessarily caused by increased security in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks.
She said the INS is habitually slow in processing work visas.
Meanwhile, the city is currently paying the drivers' rents through a master lease program, which secured their housing using city money up front. The city had to guarantee that money to secure the housing, banking on the drivers to pay the rent each month.
Each month the 10 drivers are not here the city loses $3,500 in rent. That money has been budgeted for the entire season (six months) if need be.
What's more, the city will have to cut back on service during the beginning of the ski season because of a lack of drivers. The 20-minute service that had been anticipated will have to drop to 30 minutes until the drivers get here and are trained, said Transportation Director George Krawzoff.
"We'd much rather start with a certain level of service and continue through the year, but that's not going to be possible," Krawzoff said.
"It's bad for everybody. It's bad for us, but it's terrible for the Australian workers."