Staffing Challenges and Successes
What has worked for the City of Craig
Employee staffing in general these past three years has been difficult to fill; particularly specialized positions that require certifications and technical training relevant to the position. Those positions include police officers, water and wastewater personnel, and CDL drivers and operators.
Some positions during this time remained vacant, requiring current employees to pull extra shifts to keep up with the workload. This impacted not only employee morale but also resulted in employee burnout, which in turn brought some discord amongst employees and supervisors. We advertised both locally and regionally, hoping to get qualified applicants to apply for the positions, but when this was not getting the vacancies filled, we figured we would try a different approach for our hiring needs.
Police officers have been one of the hardest positions to fill, especially after Senate Bill 20-217 passed and put a toll on many police departments. Many did not want to be police officers. As an example of our strategy, we had community service officers who had knowledge and experience in police policies, really wanted to be police officers, and the positions were open, but we had no funding to send them to the academy. We applied for grant funding to help pay for schooling and we had people who had already worked for the municipality to fill these open police positions. We have used community service officers to fill four of our vacant police officer positions.
Using a sign-on bonus for police officers has also yielded filling two positions to date. Most times, money doesn’t always get the position filled, but both times that the bonus was utilized, it was by local officers from another municipality wanting to stay local but move to another municipality.
We have also filled specialized positions in our water and wastewater departments by utilizing current employees who wanted to move forward in their positions and getting them the training, education, and certifications needed for the position. If they needed leadership training to help as they became supervisors or managers, we made sure they were able to attain the training they needed to be successful in their new positions.
CDL driver shortage has also been a big problem for the parks and recreation department, as well as our road & bridge and solid waste departments. Earlier this year the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration implemented Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) regulations to set the baseline for training requirements needed for first-time commercial drivers and anyone wanting to upgrade their CDL to add endorsements. This was to ensure that all commercial drivers are properly trained and to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.
This training was costly and there were not many places locally to send someone for the training. This was an added cost that the city took on for qualified applicants to ensure that those positions could be filled. As a preventative measure, the employees signed an agreement with the city stating that if they left the employment of the city, that they were liable for the training costs on a pro-rated basis.
We have also found that the salary range for municipal CDL drivers cannot compete with the salary that companies offer on a for-hire basis. We have had to get closer to that salary range to be competitive, while also not over utilizing the budget.
To date, we have filled all of our vacant positions in the water and wastewater departments, and our police department will be fully staffed when the last two cadets graduate from the Police Academy. With recent turnover in light equipment operators, we will be hiring and training three CDL drivers at the beginning of the new year.
What we have been doing to fill our positions is nothing new, but after some trial and error as well as teamwork and cooperation among departments, we have been able to employ and use existing employees and hire locally to not only help ourselves, but our community. This staffing shortage will be ongoing and as time goes on, we will again have to regroup, discuss, and implement what will work for us.