City seeking bus drivers for winter

Applicant shortage threatens service

Advertisement

— An energy boom in Australia could affect winter bus service in Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat Springs Transportation Director George Krawzoff said this week that his department is currently 26 drivers short for its winter bus service program. Last winter, nine seasonal, foreign workers - including six Australians - drove Steamboat Springs Transit buses. This year, there will be no foreign drivers.

Krawzoff said an energy boom in Australia has lured away many of the workers that would have considered driving buses in Steamboat this winter. A weakening dollar also has made working in the U.S. a less appealing option. Krawzoff said recruiting one or two drivers from other countries was not cost-effective.

"When we began recruiting, we rapidly found there was little or no interest in Australia due to the energy boom there," Krawzoff said. "They would have been happy to do it again, if not for the situation in their country."

Krawzoff expressed his concerns Tuesday, during an all-day discussion of the city's 2008 budget with the Steamboat Springs City Council.

"We're at a crisis point with bus drivers," Krawzoff said. "We have 14. I need 40. We have two applicants."

Krawzoff's concerns were not lost on the council, which approved adding $45,000 to Krawzoff's recruitment budget for winter bus drivers.

"I have a real concern about our bus driver situation," Councilman Paul Strong said.

On Wednesday, Krawzoff said three more applications have been received and prepared a proposal for City Manager Alan Lanning, describing allocations of the new city funds. Ideas include giving the drivers holiday pay and paid time off, installing tip jars on the buses, purchasing Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. silver medallion passes for driver use and further subsidizing housing.

Last month, the City Council approved two lease agreements for bus driver housing, at 525 Dabney Lane and 690 Amethyst Court. Krawzoff said he hopes to reduce drivers' rent at those locations to $350 a month. Drivers earn $15.02 an hour, a wage that would rise to $15.60 an hour on Jan. 1 if, as expected, City Council passes a budget that raises city wages 4 percent across the board.

Krawzoff said such a benefits package is necessary to compete with other resort communities.

"What people are doing to attract these people is extraordinary," Krawzoff said.

When asked if he thought the city would be able to fill all 40 driver positions, Krawzoff said, "It's a huge challenge right now, and I'd say it's too close to call."

Before the city decided to add $45,000 to his recruitment budget, Krawzoff said he would have answered "absolutely not."

"This gives us a chance," he said.

Painful cuts

If all the positions aren't filled, Krawzoff said the frequency of bus service would have to be reduced and routes would likely be cut, starting with recently added and lesser-used routes.

"These are very painful cuts," Krawzoff said. "Generally speaking, frequency is everything to a transit system."

Krawzoff's trouble finding bus drivers highlights a number of other larger concerns for city officials. The increased difficulty of finding quality employees in all departments is reflected in the city's proposed 2008 budget, which would add an additional $120,000 for recruitment to the human resources department.

At a council meeting last month, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord estimated the city will lose nearly all of its department heads and mid-management staff members to retirement in the next 10 years.

"We are now in a situation where we need to be competitive," City Council President Susan Dellinger said Tuesday.

Councilman Towny Anderson said the bus driver situation speaks to the difficulty the city will have in addressing its traffic concerns. He said talks of cutting routes and frequency represent steps in the wrong direction.

"I'm very concerned," Anderson said. "We don't have a plan."

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

addlip2U 6 years, 11 months ago

Local employers subsidize "J2 or HB2" visa employees and the agencies with several thousands per person and pay or offer low cost housing to them.

There are plenty of Americans that would gladly work here for a living wage. Offer the $2000 you pay for bringing a "J2 or HB2 visa employee" and subsidize their housing like you do for the "visa employees" than see how easy it is to get an American to work here.

0

id04sp 6 years, 11 months ago

The Americans would want a season pass and time off to use it. I'd rather have people who want to work and save and go back home to spend it.

0

addlip2U 6 years, 11 months ago

In order for our economy to strive, we need to re-invest in it. Each dollar spend here generate more jobs and profits.
By taking the money away to another country, we suffer.

0

QuitYerWhining 6 years, 11 months ago

Addi What exactly is living wage in Steamboat for someone who would be new to the area? Obviously none of the locals want to take the job because they know it wont pay the bills. This is just a sampling of things to come people. Steamboat is going to have to figure out how to replace professionals that are lost through attrition. Teachers, police officers, City Employees etc...........a future sterile community?

0

Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 11 months ago

Then, to accomodate Americans who evidently don't want the jobs, employers will raise the pay to entice people. Guess where that added expense goes? In true American fashion, that added payroll expense will get passed on to everyone as taxes, since the SST is funded thru taxes to keep it free.

So, prices then start going up for people to cover themselves on that added tax expense and the dog bites and swallows it's own tail.

0

addlip2U 6 years, 11 months ago

I am sorry for not making myself clear. My point is for the employer to offer Americans equivalent to what is paid (in total) to those on visa.

0

Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 11 months ago

Addlip- They offer those incentives in different ways. Most H2B's and J1's are here to work and not ski. Most of those companies are offering signing bonuses to employees who work seasonally. They also get offered merchant passes to help keep the cost down for buying a pass late. They are even offered housing incentives a lot of times.

Most H2B's and J1's don't end up buying ski passes and don't get offered a signing bonus as a local would. So, the monetary offerings to locals are pretty much on par with importing workers.

0

thecondoguy1 6 years, 11 months ago

I would drive the bus this winter but I would need the free ski pass, 12 grand a month, the city to pay Mr Gonzales for my wood bill, and a company car, a suv of course........

0

addlip2U 6 years, 11 months ago

kielbasa, incorrect. The seasonal employees I know have not been offered EVER any of the (by you) mentioned bennies. Their and H2B's and J1's wages are same.
The difference is in not paying them vacation and unemployment benefits. Which, if you are a legal citizen, by labor laws, due to you.

0

JQPUBLIC 6 years, 11 months ago

Seasonal Employees... why would you give a paid vacation to someone that's only going to work for 6 months? The same with unemployment benefits, you want them to work 6 months and live off unemployment the next 6? Has labor laws changed as to what is "due to you"?

Maybe the ride shouldn't be free.

0

jack legrice 6 years, 11 months ago

When the bus service first started, there was a fare. Why not charge$.25 . The driver gets 50% of the total fare for the shift. Oh I forgot about our tourists, they won,t come if they have to pay for the bus. Guess what? When there is no bus service it will just place us further down the list of our service rating. I know people will say it will be a pain to collect the money. It worked years ago. It works in other cities. Just a thought. By the way how much tax monies go to supporting the Craig route? I sure it doesn't come close to the cost of operating it.

0

Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 11 months ago

Addlip- I work for a property management company. I know what I'm paying my workforce. These are seasonal positions we are talking about. Year-round get benefits such as Health Ins., merchant passes, vacation time, sick days, 401K, etc.

We don't offer most of those to seasonal workers. That's why we give signing bonuses and pay that out after working a certain amount of time.

For oneski-

I think the SST should be a paid bus. A good many property management companies offer their own free shuttles anyway. As for paying for the bus, since most City tax revenue is Sales Tax based, our visitors are paying for the SST. The Craig Shuttle is a pay per use to help defray the costs.

0

corduroy 6 years, 11 months ago

why is it people talk about community and keeping things American and local, yet even the city transit system outsources because it costs them less?

Steamboat Springs economy is shifting.. and I'm not sure its for the positive (unless you are already rich)

0

stompk 6 years, 11 months ago

clevedave, your right! Tips are the way in this town What an incentive. Makes the driver more friendly, and I would tip for a good drive.

Nice.

0

dave reynolds 6 years, 11 months ago

i REMEMBER WHEN THE BUS WAS FIFTY CENTS..YOU HAD TO HAVE EXACT change..usely gave the driver a dollar told him tok keep it sved me for DUI..it will get intresting this season..my wife does payroll etc. for ski corp..kitchen workers get paid more than her go figure

0

jeannie berger 6 years, 11 months ago

You could also purchase a bus pass and just show it without having to dig for change. Most of the management properties at that time gave bus passes to their guests. My kids always had a pass and rode the bus everywhere. My oldest daughter rode it to school when she had a 7 am class in high school. If you have ever ridden the bus at the peak of ski season you know that it keeps a lot of people off of the main roads. It is a great service.

0

dumptruck 6 years, 11 months ago

Has it occured to the council that Krawziff might be the problem. As a former driver, it's the K A job that keeps locals from driving bus. If you're lucky you get 36 hours a week, but the good old boys get all the time they want.

addlip2u has it right. Use the same pay package that the foreigners get to pay locals and with the tip jar, you'll get all the drivers you want.

0

Jason Miller 6 years, 11 months ago

I could care less about the bus.I ride my bike 365.

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.