Temporary work crews hit the ground this week to clear rivers, streams and hiking trails of debris left behind by tropical storms Irene and Lee.
The extra hands were provided thanks to an infusion of $1.3 million from the New York State Department of Labor.
According to a resolution passed by the Schenectady County Legislature in January, $528,996 of the funds were allocated for the hiring, training and supervising of workers, as well as the purchase of supplies for cleanup, demolition, repair and renovation. The remainder of the grant money will be used by the Department of Labor to pay the salaries of the workers, said county spokesman Joe McQueen.
The Schenectady County One Stop Center, which assists job seekers with career placement, recruited and screened potential employees for the 65 positions created as part of the grant. Hiring is being carried out by an employment agency hired by the Department of Labor, McQueen said.
According to McQueen, 32 positions have yet to be filled, but no more applications are being accepted.
“We have 60 applicants as of [Tuesday] who are eligible, plus there are 25 more that are being reviewed,” he said.
Those eligible for the positions must be Schenectady County residents who have been unemployed for six months or more.
Training, project management and supervision for the clean-up work is being provided by Northeast Parent and Child Society. The society also purchased all of the tools and equipment necessary for the projects.
“Each [worker] gets 16 hours of instruction, everything from [Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations] to chain-saw training classes,” said Eugene White, spokesman for Northeast.
The crews, which are assisting the county’s Soil and Water Conservation District, will report to work sites on a staggered basis once they finish their training. Clean-up work is being carried out at locations including the Indian Kill Nature Preserve, Plotter Kill Preserve and the Schenectady County Forest Preserve, said White.
“Much of the work that will be done will prevent future erosion and future damage. This work is necessary because the next time we get a big storm, things could get much worse,” he said.
According to McQueen, the grant-funded work will last only through the summer.
Although the jobs are temporary, they represent a wonderful opportunity for the workers, White noted.
“I think the best part of this is the training and experience they get. ... Many of these workers wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn on the job without a program like this, and these skills will make them employable in the future for public works jobs,” he said.