COLUMBIA, Mo. - While some divisions of Columbia Utilities have paid more than expected for temporary workers this year, the department is below expectations so far.
Five divisions of the utilities department - electric, water, sewer, trash collection and landfill - have paid $1.3 million so far for temporary workers to fill out vacancies. That's below the $2.1 million those five divisions expected to pay in a July 2018 report.
Both the solid waste trash collection and water divisions have either paid more or are expected to pay more this fiscal year, which started in October. Solid waste has spent $245,831 for the service and water has paid $645,700. It's just $669 shy of the projected cost of the service for trash collection for the whole year and $45,700 above what water expected to pay.
ABC 17 News Investigates reported last week that the city's cost for temporary trash collectors has doubled this year compared to last year. The city started a new contract with People Ready in July 2018 after the previous vendor, Express Pros, dropped the service after numerous employees suffered on-the-job injuries.
Three divisions have come in under expectations. The electric department has paid $438,848 for electric line work. The city landfill has paid $17,285, and anticipated paying $51,000 for such work. The sewer division has not spent any money this fiscal year for temporary help, despite expecting a $260,000 bill for the year.
Second Ward councilman Michael Trapp said hiring agencies that provide temporary workers is necessary, but not ideal. He said it's cheaper for the city to do the work with its own staff, rather than hiring a firm that charges a greater hourly rate per worker than what the city offers. Temporary workers also allow the city the bring in more help when needed.
Trapp and the council raised the wage for trash collectors this year in hopes of recruiting more people. Patricia Weisenfelder, spokesperson for the utility, said staffing has not gotten better since then, causing the utility to rely on 12 to 15 temporary workers a day. Trapp said the city should re-evaluate the city's trash collection system.
"Having guys riding on the back of trucks and throwing the bags in and off the trucks is just inherently dangerous and it's dangerous to follow," Trapp said.
Fifth Ward councilman Matt Pitzer said that he did not know many details on the individual division costs for temporary help, but looked forward to asking more questions of city staff in regards to trash collection and electric line help.