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Every snow storm in Cook County could be an IDOT crisis

1/23/2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE:
January 23, 2014

Every snow storm in Cook county could be an IDOT crisis

Public safety and cost concerns emerge as the agency refuses to hire enough mechanics to keep snow plows running
 
CHICAGO – The recent winter storms that shut down roads in Illinois exposed a serious potential public safety and financial problem in Cook County. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) doesn’t have enough mechanics to keep snow plows running, so they had to call in 30 mechanics from the National Guard just to keep the fleet on the road recently.

“We can’t call in the military every time we have a snow storm,” said Tom Kosowski, President of the Illinois Federation of Public Employees (IFPE), IFT Local 4408. “We don’t have enough mechanics and shopkeepers to do the job. If we can’t keep plows running to clear the roads, they won’t be safe for anyone.”

Public employees have been on the front lines statewide, often working 21-hour days to keep up with recent storms while severely short-handed. Instead of hiring more IDOT workers, the state calls in military support, spends additional money to hire private companies, uses employees who aren’t trained mechanics, and forces their own mechanics to work large amounts of overtime.

These unqualified workers without the appropriate experience on state vehicles create a potential danger to motorists and more cost to taxpayers.
 
A $3-million study conducted for the state showed that maintaining the state’s vehicles in house is more efficient and saves taxpayer dollars. Maximus Fleet Management Consulting recommended that IDOT hire more mechanics to work on the fleet and more storekeepers to handle inventory.

“Hiring more IDOT mechanics will help keep people safe and save the state more money,” said Matt Emigholz, Vice President of Local 4408. “We don’t understand why IDOT won’t follow the advice they paid to receive.”
 
At the Rodenburg facility in Schaumburg alone, 15 of 22 plows are not working at this time. If the garages were properly staffed, the right amount of inventory would be stocked at the most efficient cost and mechanics could perform preventative maintenance to keep the fleet running longer.

The Maximus study stated, “Every competitive study we have performed has shown that efficiently operated in-house shops are more cost effective than use of commercial shops.”

RC-45 is the IFPE bargaining unit which represents employees of the Illinois Department of Transportation in Cook County. Since 1995, 62 percent of their automotive mechanics and storekeepers have been depleted. IDOT only has mechanics in Cook County; the rest of the state’s mechanics are under the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS).

More about the Maximus study can be found via the Auditor General here, on page 46 of the PDF. The full study is available by request.

The Illinois Federation of Public Employees, Local 4408 (IFPE), represents approximately 1,500 working men and women employed in more than sixty professional titles in twenty separate State agencies.

IFPE is a local affiliate of the Illinois Federation of Teachers which represents 103,000 teachers and paraprofessionals in PreK-12 school districts throughout Illinois, faculty and staff at Illinois’ community colleges and universities, public employees, and retirees.

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