City’s Public Works Department testing new cost-saving schedule

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— With furloughs suspended until April and a new schedule to have workers available around the clock, Philo Shelton and snowplow workers hope to keep Steamboat’s streets clear on a smaller budget.

Shelton, Steamboat Springs’ public works director, said his department has reorganized to have workers at the offices or on the streets 24 hours a day, working three shifts. He said the change will serve several purposes.

First, there will be workers available to work, without requiring overtime, no matter when the snow falls. That move is expected to save the city $25,000 or more in the next year.

The overall budget for snow removal is about $700,000 each year, Revenue Supervisor Kim Weber said.

The 21 snow removal workers used to work a regular eight-hour day and would be called whenever the snow fell, leading to “premium time” — work outside of normal work hours — and overtime, when the work extended past 40 hours per week.

Under the new system, between five and seven workers will be working at all times and can start plowing roads immediately. Workers still may have some overtime during weekend storms, Shelton said.

Another cost-saving measure will be that only two of the city’s five large snowplows, or graders, will be used at a time. That means that fewer graders will be on the road at any given time, but Shelton said that instead of having all five graders out at once, then sitting for an extended time with no one on staff, two graders can be on the roads almost constantly with the constant staffing system.

“We’re optimistic that will be better, long term,” Shelton said.

Shelton’s crew has worked through one major snowstorm. He said that while the system seemed to work well, the new schedule is still an experiment.

If the system works out, the city will be able to sell the three unused graders to generate roughly $75,000 for the city coffers, Shelton said.

The city crews plow roughly 70 miles of roads within the city limits. The Colorado Department of Transportation plows all state highways, including U.S. Highway 40 through downtown Steamboat Springs, but city crews are responsible for removing the snow from downtown areas after snowstorms.

— To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

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