Covid-19 outbreak causes staff shortage for one public works department


Urbana, Ill. (WCIA) —

You may need to give yourself some extra time while driving this week. Public works departments are working to clean up snow on the roads, but one city is facing some challenges.

The Urbana Public Works Department had to send about half their staff home because of a Covid-19 outbreak.

“We can continue to get the work done, just not quite as fast as we typically could,” Urbana Public Works Department’s Vince Gustafson said.

That’s a tough position for Urbana Public Works to be in, as Central Illinois gets hit with below freezing temperatures and snow.

“We’ve got about 13 to 14 out related to Covid plus one of our supervisors and then a handful who already planned on being on,” Gustafson said.

Vince Gustafson says more people are normally needed during this weather, so it’s difficult to keep the roads clean.

“We could have between 12 and fourteen people on each shift. As of right now, exhausting the roster we only have about half of that,” Gustafson said.

Gustafson now has employees working 12 hour shifts, making him worried about employee fatigue. Another problem is the cold temperatures affect on salt.

“Once we get down to 12-10 degrees average or below that, it loses its effectiveness. So, even in a situation where we are fully staffed we have to advise drivers to be very careful,” Gustafson said.

Meanwhile down south, another public works department is having a similar issue because of cold temperatures.

“What we do when it gets this cold, we actually mix some of our salt with sand or turkey grid, and a lot of the county roads do that as well. We’ll just put down sand on certain intersections just to help give a little extra traction during those icy conditions,” Effingham Public Works Director Jeremy Heuerman said.

Effingham Public Works says they’ve seen a lot of sleet so they’re paying extra attention to certain areas.

“We’re definitely out salting bridges and intersections and things like that probably a little bit more than actually pushing the snow like they are up north,” Heuerman said.

While both departments are doing the best they can, they’re asking you to be careful while this weather sticks around.

“Slow down, use caution,” Heuerman said.

Urbana Public Works says primary and secondary streets will be prioritized first, while residential areas will be determined based on weather conditions and staffing.

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