Outside firm hired due to short staff

A public works department staffing shortage compelled Hinsdale trustees last week to contract with a private firm to perform snow removal services this winter.

The unanimous vote at the village board’s Oct. 18 to pay Beverly Companies nearly $45,000 to shovel and salt the main downtown train station and the Highland train station for the 2022-23 winter season underscored the challenges facing both public and private sector employers in recruiting enough workers.

“Normally the public works group plows and salts these areas themselves,” Trustee Neale Byrnes said at the meeting in presenting the agenda item. “However, we are currently short two drivers, plus two other recent hires lack their (commercial driver’s licenses) so thy are unable to operate the five-ton plowing trucks.”

The bidding process was waived to hire Beverly, who already handles snow removal at the downtown parking deck for the village. Public works director George Peluso said the firm has proven to be a reliable contractor.

“We’ve been satisfied with their services at the deck. They’ve been dependable,” Peluso said.

He also noted that the work at the stations must adhere to Burlington Northern railroad regulations.

“Some of the vendors that we were speaking to were not able to meet those requirements,” he told trustees.

To calculate a reasonable price, Peluso said officials referenced the cost paid by Clarendon Hills, which he said is also taking an outsourcing approach to snow removal for its train station.

“We were able to benchmark (Beverly’s) cost with Clarendon Hills,” Peluso explained. “That’s how we, essentially, negotiated our prices with them.”

Tracy McLaughlin, Hinsdale’s human resources director, said filling positions in general has become a more acute challenge for the village in a tight and selective labor market.

“Everyone who wants a job has a job and competition is fierce,” McLaughlin told The Hinsdalean.

In addition to the public works openings, the village is also seeking to fill the full-time positions of village clerk, assistant finance director and accountan at village hall, as well as the part-time roles of fire department administrative secretary and KLM Lodge event host. Hinsdale police also are looking to hire an officer.

The growing desire to work from home doesn’t mesh well with fields where onsite presence is mandatory, like public works.

“We are not necessarily offering people the ability to work from home every Tuesday and Thursday,” she said, adding that acquiring experienced workers who don’t need training is also highly preferred. “We’re definitely feeling the pinch. That quest for talent and not having a full complement of CDL drivers impacts our concern for cleaning the streets and salting.”

By contracting out the train station work, department staff are able to make sure village streets are cleared.

Byrnes said the expectation is for this to be a temporary measure and for the work to be brought back in-house by the 2023-24 winter season.

“Hopefully by next year public works staff will be at full strength,” he said.

The money earmarked for positions currently vacant will instead be applied to the contract, he noted.

“There is $70,000 in savings from the two employee vacancies. That will more than cover the unbudgeted amount of this contract,” Byrnes said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean