GLENVILLE — Bringing on at least two staffers for extra help would be ideal for town Highway Superintendent Tom Coppola. In recent years, flipping existing positions has already been a hurdle.
“I mean, we could always use more people,” Coppola said. “That’s for sure.”
Twenty-four employees currently work for the town’s Highway Department. Filling six retirement vacancies over the last three years has been challenging, according to the town official.
Elected to his current role in 2009, he remembers receiving a sizable stack of job applications. Now, the department typically receives upwards of two submissions per opening. He believes that young highway workers aren’t attracted to the town’s benefit package nor the area.
“It’s not like it used to be,” Coppola said. “Qualifications for drivers and stuff like that — you know, they’re out there, but they’re just not forthcoming like they used to be.”
Workers in the state Employees’ Retirement System are allowed to retire at 55 years old for 55% full benefit reductions and are eligible for full benefit reductions if they retire at 65. Entry-level workers are paid $16.34 an hour. Per contractual terms with the Civil Service Employees Association, union staff will receive a 2.25% raise on Jan. 1.
Municipal highway department positions compete with construction companies and private snow plow services.
“You can grow and make it to CEO someday if you want to,” Coppola said about the private sector. “Municipal jobs aren’t like that. You take your steps and when you get to a certain spot — these jobs you’re not going to get rich, but you have a decent retirement and a decent benefits package.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, highway departments across the country faced major shortages. Employee turnover hasn’t been dramatic enough to make much of a difference, the highway superintendent maintained.
Idealized staffing numbers notwithstanding, Coppola said that current staff levels are stable. The department has enough personnel to fill-in shifts and take on winter storms, he added.
“We’re at pretty good numbers,” he said. “We can get the job done.”
Should a fall storm hit the town, it would take about six hours to get plow teams up and running, according to Coppola. Trucks are interchangeably used for both leaf blowing and snow removal.
Anticipating winter storms ahead, the New York State Department of Transportation’s regional division announced 105 permanent and seasonal openings in the greater Capital Region earlier in October. Regional spokesperson Bryan Viggiani said that the state agency is still hiring.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3095 or [email protected]