Westbrook utilities hit by labor shortage, hiring contractors

A labor shortage prompted Westbrook Public Services to hire contractors for guard work at city buildings, this year’s road markings and the digging of graves.

“This is our busiest season, and the lack of manpower due to the labor shortage makes it all the more intense,” operations director Arty Ledoux said during of a telephone interview on Monday. “We need to prioritize what we do and get help where it makes sense for some of our tasks.”

The utility road crew, usually complete at 18, now has seven members, Ledoux said.

A number of workers left to “improve their situation” with better paying jobs, he said.

“Wwe are like somebody other. People are trying to improve their personal situation, whether it’s wages or benefits,” Ledoux said. “So they take advantage of opportunities that exist that they believe would improve their situation and will do so. This is kinda the way of the (world) right now and people are moving.

The city council unanimously approved three contracts on Monday.

Portland’s Casco Bay Cleaning was awarded a $21,972 per month contract for custodial work at City Hall, public safety and utility buildings, the community center and the Walker Memorial Library. The three-year contract begins in July.

K5 Corporation of Rockland, Massachusetts will receive approximately $79,000 to repaint faded street stripes. The company will be able to get the job done faster than it would have been possible with in-house staff, Ledoux said.

“Ssecurity pedestrians, commuters and drivers is paramount,” said Ledoux.

According to city administrator Jerre Bryant, street markings are required every year because winter takes a toll on the markings.

Grave services have been contracted to CKC Landscaping of Gorham at a rate of $900 per lot or $1,000 per lot with less than four days notice when the grave is needed. A utility employee will be on hand for the funeral work, Ledoux said; previously, two or three employees were responsible for it.

The department’s busy season, which emphasizes outdoor recreation areas, is made worse this year due to additional work caused by major construction projects downtown and elsewhere in the city.

As utilities seek to hire more permanent workers, Ledoux asks the public to be patient.

“We do our best with the employees we work with, and we do our best to continue to maintain the same level of service for taxpayers that we have always had,” he said.

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