Gloversville DPW director asks council to fund 2 more workers

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GLOVERSVILLE –  Amid an apparent local labor shortage that’s made it too difficult to find temporary summer workers, Dept. of Public Works Director Donald Schwartz on Monday told the Common Council’s finance committee his department needs an additional two full-time DPW workers.

At it’s June 14 meeting the Common Council voted to authorize Schwartz to enter into a contract with Accustaff for temporary workers, but Schwartz on Monday said he’s been completely unable to find the workers he needs despite contacting multiple temp agencies. He said the few agencies who had workers available were ones that didn’t allow for “outdoor work.”

“I spoke to … eight (maybe) ten, and the vast majority of them didn’t even have people to give us,” Schwartz said.

Gloversville’s DPW currently has 23 full-time positions funded in the 2022 city budget, but as recently as 2020 the DPW had 27 full-time positions before four jobs were eliminated by attrition when employees retired and were not replaced.

The reduction in the city’s DPW staff was made possible when the Common Council in 2021 hired Clifton Park-based Twin Bridges Waste and Recycling to take over for the city’s six-man garbage collection service. Eliminating the four positions through attrition was estimated to save the city $225,000 in salary and benefit on an annual basis going forward.

Schwartz said its increasingly difficult to fill even full-time jobs for his department. He said employees at local distribution centers are being offered $24 per hour to start making those competitive with what the city can offer in terms of pay. He said he’s recently been involved in a hiring process to fill the 23rd slot in his department, and he often emphasizes the great health insurance and pension benefits available as among the reasons to work for the city.

Those benefits just improved with the five-year pension vesting plan approved as part of New York state’s 2022-23 budget. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the pension change into law and her Republican opponent in the November election U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin has indicated he also supports the five-year vesting plan, giving it broad bipartisan support.

Gloversville Finance Commissioner Tammie Weiterschan said new hires for the city, who would typically be in Tier 6 of the state pension system, will be eligible for the five-year vesting, which means they would be eligible to collect a full pension after five years of service, providing them with an annual payout from the pension system based on their highest earning years. Weiterschan said she doesn’t know yet whether the change to the pension system will increase the state-mandated contribution the city is required to make to the pension plans.

During his presentation to the finance committee Monday, Schwartz provided a breakdown of the labor hours needed to accomplish all of his department’s assigned duties. He said without additional workers proper maintenance of the city’s parks as well as tasks like painting work are falling by the wayside.

Mayor Vince DeSantis said the essential tasks of the DPW — like repairing potholes and important infrastructure work — are still getting done because they are top priorities, but he doesn’t want tasks like park maintenance that affect the quality of life of residents to be neglected.

“The things that are in red (with too few workers for the hours of labor needed) are things like park maintenance and painting, quality of life things that I don’t want to see fall into disrepair,” DeSantis said.

Second Ward Councilman Art Simonds said he’s concerned that adding two additional full time workers could cost the city approximately $125,000 per year. He said the DPW staff is strained during the summer, when there are more tasks to be done and workers often take their vacation time, but during the winter months there is less to do, and more downtime.

Simonds said the council should explore whether there are any local businesses who could provide the labor less expensively than hiring additional full time positions.

“I have a feeling we’ll be able to hire somebody locally to help us, at least in the summertime, when we need it to take care of the parks and stuff like that,” he said.

DeSantis said his administration is going to solicit price quotes from private sector companies and offer the information to the council so they can compare the cost with hiring two full time employees.

“Either one is fine with me and I’m sure fine with Don, as long as it does what we want to do, give us the capacity,” he said.

DeSantis said he wants to have a strategy in place for how to accomplish the DPW’s tasks before the city begins its 2023 budget season in October.

More: All NewsEverything Gloversville

By Jason Subik

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