WILMINGTON — While reportedly there’s some concern at the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) about having enough snowplow drivers this winter in the state as a whole, a couple local officials point to backup sources they would call on in a jam.
An Ohio public radio report Tuesday indicated ODOT is still looking to hire temporary snowplow drivers, and that a high demand for CDL drivers is a big factor making it more of a challenge.
Furthermore, winter outbreaks in COVID cases could of course also cause driver shortages, taking a number of them out all at once in one locale.
At a local winter storm planning meeting Tuesday, ODOT County Manager Michael Lovelace whose operations are based in Clinton County said if they were to get short on drivers, he would look either toward Fayette County or Warren County for backup and support.
City of Wilmington Safety & Service Director Brian Shidaker said they have other city departments they could reach out to for drivers if COVID strikes the street crews, such as the landfill and the sewer department.
“We try to keep them [city employees in different departments] separated for that reason,” said Shidaker.
The city’s safety and service director added, “I am encouraged by the vaccine participation within our city government. We have had contingency plans in place before COVID, and in the event we are short-staffed we have multiple departments cross trained. I am confident in our ability to respond to snow events.”
While meeting participants were on the COVID topic, Clinton County Engineer Jeffrey B. Linkous said he thinks this winter they will continue to sanitize trucks when there’s a switch in drivers of a vehicle.
“We’re going to try to keep them clean to reduce the chance of getting something,” said the county engineer.
Lovelace said his ODOT highway garage has been very lucky and fortunate to be fully staffed as the winter months approach. Snowplow drivers there collectively run 19 different routes.
Wilmington Maintenance & Repair Department Supt. Jerry Runk attended the winter storm planning meeting, too. He said city crews will do some pre-treating of streets.
“If we can keep that initial snow from sticking, it sure helps you in the end,” remarked Runk.
Clinton County Port Authority Associate Director Beth Huber was at the meeting on behalf of the Wilmington Air Park.
She said Amazon’s night time air freight operations at the air park occur seven nights a week, and are active until probably 2 or 3 a.m.
Presently, Amazon is saying they have about 1,000 employees at the air park, said Huber in order to let highway officials have a good idea of the traffic volume leaving the place in the middle of the night, and arriving between 4 and 5 p.m.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.