The old joke is that Wisconsin has two seasons — winter and road construction.
Both subjects — specifically last winter and this coming road construction season — came up at the May 14 Platteville Common Council meeting.
The council held a work session to discuss how to handle Street Department staffing for the next major winter storm, based on staffing issues during the Dec. 20–21 snowstorm.
City policy changed last year to allow managers to send home Street Department employees early for the week in anticipation of a major winter storm — generally Wednesdays or Thursdays in the event of a weekend snowstorm forecast — to reduce overtime costs.
City Manager Larry Bierke said employees were “concerned” because they could lose hours and pay if they’re sent home early and the anticipated weekend winter storm doesn’t occur.
“Mother Nature is not perfect, and the weather forecasters are certainly not so,” said Director of Public Works Howard Crofoot, who added Street Department employees could lose up to a day’s pay if sent home early for a snowstorm that doesn’t require significant plowing.
The new policy was suspended for the rest of the winter, and the city went back to the policy the city had negotiated with the Street Department union before the state public employee collective bargaining reforms that took effect in 2011.
At-large Ald. Mike Denn said the city should retain the policy it negotiated with the union, including overtime if needed.
“There are six or seven days out of the year when people in the Street Department have to come in and plow snow,” said at-large Ald. Patrice Steiner. “I don’t have a problem with them getting overtime because of snowstorms.”
But, replied at-large Ald. Dick Bonin, “We’re not union here in the city anymore, so we’ve got to change things.”
“Part of our option here is to change the way we do business,” said District 3 Ald. Barb Daus.
District 1 Ald. Barb Stockhausen said during her campaign for Common Council, “I received many phone calls that [said] it wasn’t handled fairly.”
Water and Sewer Department employees also assist in street cleaning during and after snowstorms. However, those employees work Sunday-to-Wednesday or Wednesday-to-Saturday schedules.
Daus said an overtime policy should apply all year.
“This could apply in storms that aren’t snowstorms,” said Daus. “This is really a disaster mitigation policy.”
Before the snowplowing discussion, the council approved contracts for street projects scheduled to be completed before the next snow flies.
The council voted to approve the original plan to pave Broadway between Main Street and Stevens Avenue with concrete instead of asphalt.
Crofoot said that concrete would last longer than asphalt.
The council approved the bid for Evergreen Road from East Side Road to the new Emmi Roth cheese plant in the Platteville Industry Park. The council also approved an application for exemption of the sidewalk requirements for Evergreen Road.
The Evergreen Road project is being funded in part by a Federal Highway Administration Transportation Equity Act grant. TEA grants require the installation of sidewalks and bicycle lanes unless a waiver is approved.
Crofoot said a compromise had been reached to install a “shared-use pathway” for pedestrians and bicyclists along the new road work.
The council approved the waiver application 5–1, with Denn opposed, saying, “We don’t need bike paths in industrial areas.”