I-TEAM: Why is Cleveland, ODOT still hiring plow drivers as storm hits?

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has found the city of Cleveland and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) are still looking to hire snow plow drivers even as we get hit with the first big snow of the season.

We uncovered city of Cleveland postings listing openings for plow truck drivers in the streets department and port control (at Hopkins Airport and Burke-Lakefront Airport).

ODOT also has openings posted for plow drivers in multiple counties in Northeast Ohio.

Cleveland Councilman Brian Kazy reacted. He said, “12 hours after it stops, if the snow isn’t gone or isn’t removed, we’re the ones that get the phone calls.”

Kazy said he is depending on city hall having enough plows out, but he’s watching closely.

Last year, the I-Team revealed some city plow drivers also started after the first big snow.

“If this is something year-after-year, something needs to be done,” Kazy said. “We can’t continue on the same path of getting ready for something after the fact.”

As we waited for an official response from Cleveland City Hall, the I-Team called city offices as any citizen might. Workers told us the city still needs dozens more drivers, and a group just got hired, but those drivers are still going through final steps such as taking physicals.

ODOT still has openings for nine of 147 plow drivers in Northeast Ohio.

But, during major storms and long lake-effect snows, every position can be critical. And, ODOT has learned, the state sometimes struggles with hiring drivers willing to take a plow job only for the winter.

“Seasonal positions are very important,” ODOT Spokesperson Matt Bruning said. “When you get on those 12-hour shifts that can be pretty tiring.  And, so certainly, we want to give people breaks when we can, if someone gets sick, someone gets hurt…”

Bruning says, statewide, ODOT uses 475 seasonal drivers.

ODOT also can fill some positions on an emergency basis with people normally assigned to other jobs in the Department of Transportation who are qualified and licensed to operate the large trucks used to plow.

Meantime, Hopkins Airport can bring in private contractors, if necessary, to help move snow and keep the planes flying.

Taxpayers we met just want to see the job done no matter the number of openings for plow drivers.

One woman told us, simply, “I’m counting on ’em.”

But a man we met didn’t feel confident in the city of Cleveland plowing the streets given what he’s observed in the past and the current job openings. He said, “Past experience. You know, you’ve done investigations on them yourself.”

We sent questions about this to a variety of spokespeople and other officials at city hall, but as of late Monday, the I-Team had received no comment.

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