Overtime costs also weather-related in public works budget

A line of salt trucks and snow plows awaits deployment at the Wilmette Public Works garage on Laramie Avenue on Jan. 2. | Kathy Routliffe/Sun-Times Media
A line of salt trucks and snow plows awaits deployment at the Wilmette Public Works garage on Laramie Avenue on Jan. 2. | Kathy Routliffe/Sun-Times Media
Kathy Routliffe
kroutliffe@pioneerlocal.com | @pioneer_kathy
Aug. 4 4:16 p.m.
CLOCKING IN WHERE: Wilmette public works WHAT: overtime hours FOR: winter storms MOST HOURS: 5,757.25 in 2013-14 LEAST HOURS: 1,543.67 in 2011-12

When Donna Jacubowski considers winter costs in budget preparations each year, she not only looks at weather but time — more specifically, the overtime pay winter weather shifts regularly add to the bottom line.

Storms and rough weather, the kind that send crews out with snowplows and salt trucks, are no respecter of regular hours, Jacubowski said July 23. And of the 39 full- and part-time department employees, all but a handful can expect at one time or another to be helping clear streets during and after storms (including the department’s 12-person street division, 13-person water and sewer division, two foresters and six mechanics.)

“My employees generally work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and they don’t work on weekends. So the majority of the time they spend [working to clear streets during storms], maybe 75 percent of it, is going to be overtime,” she said.

For instance, during the February 2011 storm that blanketed the village with 20 inches of snow, crews worked around the clock for roughly a week to clear roads, sidewalks and alleys. And this past winter, crews worked similar steady 12-hour split shifts from Dec. 31 through Jan. 2.

The man-hour overtime totals of the past five winter seasons, from 2009-10 through 2013-14, reflect the same weather changes as records for salt and cold patch use.

For instance public works crews worked 3,689.5 overtime man-hours in 2010-11, significantly higher than the roughly 1,976 overtime hours of the previous winter season. That was to a significant degree traceable to the February storm.

This past winter season — one in which several significant snowfalls followed each other in regular procession, including a New Years Day snowfall of 6 to 11 inches — that record was obliterated. Department employees put in 5,757.25 man-hours of overtime.

Both seasons outstripped the half-decade’s three much milder winter seasons where overtime ranged from slightly more than 1,500 man-hours in one season to more than 2,740 hours in another.

Her department’s annual overtime is disbursed from a pool established in each year’s budget, Jacubowski said. In 2014, that amount was $80,720.

“In 2012, we only used $44,528. Obviously this year, we’re looking at overtime, and because of the snow events we’re going to finish at about $132,000,” she said.

As is the case when the department needs to make unanticipated purchases of salt or cold-patch, Jacubowski regularly reports overtime hours and any change those might signal for village coffers.

“For this year, we’ve already notified the village board. They know we have these spikes, and to try to anticipate it by asking them to give us extra for overtime we haven’t taken doesn’t make sense. We just keep them notified.”

Tags:
CLOCKING IN WHERE: Wilmette public works WHAT: overtime hours FOR: winter storms MOST HOURS: 5,757.25 in 2013-14 LEAST HOURS: 1,543.67 in 2011-12

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