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Why Jeffco paid more than $500K in OT to roads dept. employees

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Over $500,000 in overtime was paid to Jefferson County Department of Roads and Transportation employees. (Facebook)

By Barnett Wright

The Birmingham Times

Over $500,000 in overtime was paid to Jefferson County Department of Roads and Transportation employees. (Facebook)
Over $500,000 in overtime was paid to Jefferson County Department of Roads and Transportation employees. (Facebook)

Employees of the Jefferson County Department of Roads and Transportation were paid more than $500,000 in overtime in the last fiscal year because of a shortfall in personnel, according to county officials.

County Manager Tony Petelos said the overtime was necessary because of the workload.

“As we bring more and more staff on board, that number will drop,” he said. “We will never get down to zero, but it will be much less than what it was last year.”

Records show the county paid more than a half-million dollars to more than 100 different roads workers during the fiscal year, October 2015 to September 2016.

“[The roads department] is operating and trying to maintain a system with significant shortfalls in personnel,” said Deputy County Manager (Infrastructure) Dan Biles.

Asked to describe “significant shortfalls in personnel” Biles said in an email, “The optimum size of an adequately funded department would be close to 325 to 350 personnel, not the 238 in the fiscal 2016 budget or the 288 personnel in the fiscal 2017 budget.”

The overtime is driven “from trying to meet the maintenance requirements of the infrastructure the Department of Roads and Transportation is charged with keeping in good working order for the citizens of Jefferson County with an undermanned department,” Biles said.

Employees work major projects from Monday through Thursday (four 10-hour workdays), while most of the overtime is worked on Fridays and weekends “when the different area supervisors are working to catch up on the smaller maintenance items,” Biles said.

While there is a small overtime budget for the roads, the overtime money is paid for out of the salary account from the unfilled positions, he said.

Over the course of fiscal year 2016, the Department of Roads and Transportation averaged about 50 vacancies but ended the fiscal year with 39 vacancies, according to the county.