To the Editor:
The citizens of Grant County must decide the quality of their road system. The Union believes that the goal for the Grant County Road Department must be a safe, well maintained road system that serves the needs of citizens while providing a foundation for economic development.
Road Department management made it clear that county roads will no longer be maintained at current levels. As a result, the county could see an increase in potholes, roads overhung with trees limiting visibility, signs missing or out of date, and increased accidents from unsafe road conditions.
Deferring or limiting maintenance will not save money. The USDA is quoted in this paper a few weeks ago as saying "maintenance deferred beyond a critical point can lead to road deterioration - ultimately requiring costly capital improvements."
The Road Department management and the union signed a collective bargaining agreement last summer that provides the framework for addressing the changes affecting the department. Both management and the union have an obligation to operate in good faith under the mutual agreement when making changes that affect the working conditions of the crew.
To indicate that the grievances filed and Employment Relations Board hearing that is taking place is due to change that is necessary and responsible is misleading. In fact there is little reason for the recent changes. Management cites financial difficulties as the reason for the changes, while the department remains fully funded for the next three years and has a $50 million reserve fund. The management cites a persistent lack of sufficient work as the reason for the changes, while the county roads deteriorate. At this time, approximately 500 miles of road are maintained by a road crew of six employees, down from nine employees in March.
The citizens of Grant County deserve, expect and should demand a properly maintained and safe road system. We also believe that the citizens expect that county employees will work in a safe environment and be treated with fairness and respect. Department employees are saddened and frustrated at the deterioration of the county road system that many have spent over 20 years of their lives maintaining. However, in the end, the responsibility for deciding how and at what level to maintain the County road system lies in the hands of you, the citizens of Grant County.
Assistant Business Manager
International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 701