In addition to being down 14 employees, the City of Pine Bluff’s Street Department is in need of new equipment to keep up with demands and improvements, according to its director, Rick Rhoden.
During a Pine Bluff City Council Traffic and Aviation meeting on Wednesday, Rhoden presented a recommendation of “equipment and labor” needs to help remedy those issues. In his list, Rhoden proposed hiring two temporary associates without a commercial driver’s license to patch pot holes and cut around signs and intersections.
Since March, he says he’s only received two job applications despite having 14 empty positions for the past two years. “I’ll have some that’ll come in and they’ll work a year or so and then first thing you know they want to move on to a better paying job,” Rhoden said.
“I thought last year whenever we upped the truck driver from $11.87 to $13.00/hr., I thought we would get more applicants and that doesn’t seem to have had any effect.”
Rhoden said that everyone in his department received a pay increase last year.
However, he believes the pay is still not competitive to attract let alone retain employees, which is what he’s trying to do.
Rhoden, along with other members of the Traffic and Aviation Committee, discussed raising the pay rate to $15.00, but it was not settled upon.
“We actually increased everybody in the department by at least one dollar,” said Alderman Glen Brown Jr. of last year’s pay raise.
“And so, we figured by doing that we would increase the amount of applicants that we had. But, unfortunately, we still have run into the same problem. So, if we increase it a little bit more, I think that will be good and that will actually help possibly bring some more people in.”
In an effort to keep the streets clean and cut down on costs, Rhoden also wants to replace some equipment within the department, including two ditching machines, a Freightliner tractor truck, and two truck sweepers.
In 2017 alone, Rhoden said he’s spent $30,000 in repairs to fix various issues with the sweepers. “Our main problem is that people would rake their trash all out into the street and then they expect the street sweeper to come by that week and pick it up,” said Rhoden.
“Well, we broke it down this summer to keep from having such a high maintenance bill. The street sweeper runs once a month within an area and that’s the route we’ll keep ‘til about the first of November when the leaves start falling so heavy and then we’ll start sweeping more often.”
Rhoden also wants to buy one threefourths ton pickup truck and a trailer for his crew.
The new purchases cost roughly $803, 500 based on the estimates he provided during the meeting. Hesays he also expects approximately $600, 000 in carry over for the upcoming year, which could be used to buy the equipment.
“It’s still in the planning stages,” said Alderman Win Trafford of Rhoden’s recommendations.
“But, I feel strongly that it will happen. We deal with so much equipment in the street department that it’s just old and its constantly having to be repaired, so stuff is just not getting done. It only makes sense to have that newer equipment that’s reliable, so we’re not having to spend the repair costs on it, we’re not down and citizens are seeing the machinery moving not just sitting broken down somewhere."