The age-old proverb goes if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well..
No argument here with that advice, however, the job should also be worth the wages to the person who’s plowing the snow, operating the grader or patching the pothole.
Clearly, those jobs are all essential to everyone going to work, going to school, going to an appointment or just going shopping.
Yet, the state Division of Highways (DOH) pays a truck driver with a commercial driver’s license $11.77 an hour.
Last week, we reported that Monongalia County’s DOH crews are maintaining and repairing 875 miles of roads with — 18 field workers.
That’s about half as many as the 42 employees it should be fielding on local road crews. We could not produce this newspaper with 18 people.
Preston is 14 below its 53 worker quota, leaving 35 road crew workers to cover nearly 1,300 miles of road.
One anecdotal tale we just heard: Of six new DOH hires from a recent job fair five were gone within a week.
To his credit the DOH’s District 4’s engineer is not just sitting around making excuses or giving up, though no one would blame him if he did.
Instead, he is making every effort to stretch his available manpower with mandatory overtime and putting out private maintenance contracts.
Yet, like too many issues we cannot just continue to react to them in a constant crisis mode. We need to go to the source of the problem and determine what’s causing it.
And most would agree a large part of what’s causing this problem is understaffed, underpaid and overworked road work crews.
If our state is not willing to make a commitment to these employees, how can we expect them to ever make a commitment to us?
The state can sell all the road bonds it wants, host all the job fairs it wants and accelerate the hiring process all it wants. But until the DOH pays its employees competitive salaries and merit-based rewards it will never attract and retain the highly skilled and motivated workforce it requires to do the job.
When you combine that issue with aging road conditions, our geography, inflation for building materials and inadequate funding for maintenance and repair you got a mess.
Though the Roads to Prosperity program is making a difference, for every mile it advances the DOH’s lacking workforce drives that progress backwards.
We urge the Legislature and the Justice administration to unite on — we all drive on the same roads — and advance a significant pay raise for DOH employees in January.
If the job they do is worth doing well — and it is — it should pay better, too.