By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – With about 8,900 miles of road to plow, salt, and sand, New Hampshire’s Department of Transportation is busy right now, and their workforce is “thin.”
A high rate of vacancies for state plow drivers and increased rates are among the concerns impacting DOT right now and are expected to continue for next year, cold weather or not.
On Wednesday, as snow began to fall from the southwest to the north, William A. Cass, commissioner of the Department of Transportation was at the State House, seeking $3,590,000 from the state’s highway fund to finish up this winter.
And it hasn’t been a bad winter at all, he said, but costs are going up.
Cass said the money transfer was to pay for more salt to lay on the roads to make them safe and for increased equipment rental costs, about $1.7 million or half of the request.
Assistant Commissioner Dave Rodrigue who accompanied Cass to the State House, said the state is facing an average plow winter, if not a little under average.
But he said the state has seen costs go up and few drivers making their ranks out there in the snow thin.
There is a 20 percent vacancy rate on average for state employees which has also impacted DOT, and it has been hard to find contracted drivers with commercial licenses for the big trucks, a nationwide problem, Rodrigue said.
“We are stretched very thin when it comes to our own workforce. We have been lucky not to be stressed too much this winter with storms lasting three or more days,” which has occurred in the past, and drawn significantly down on material and workforce, he added.
He said the department is “absolutely concerned” about the potential for a big snow winter next year, as they have seen in parts of the nation’s west this winter.
“We are going to do everything we can to…hire people,” Rodrigue said.
The money is coming from fees and tolls in highway funds and there is a current revised budget for 2023 at $42.3 million.
Contracted workers can make between $60 and $100 an hour right now, plus a fuel adjustment.
The DOT fund transfer passed the legislative Fiscal Committee already and is now available to fill up the salt sheds and pay for the contracted equipment out on the road now.
Meanwhile, the NHDOT is continuing to look for private contractors with “the right equipment and experience to help plow various New Hampshire roads throughout the State.”
Those interested in learning more about the available opportunities are encouraged to review current opportunities at https://das.nh.gov/jobsearch/employment.aspxNHDOT Seeks Employees. or call (603) 271-8026.