Fewer boots on the road

The following editorial appeared in The Dominion Post, Morgantown, on Sept. 20:

There are two seasons in north-central West Virginia: Dreading winter and winter.

But in recent years, it’s not so much the cold, the wind chill or even the shoveling.

It’s the road conditions, that go from horrible to appalling for at least half of the year.

And judging by their condition now, this winter may leave our roads impassable.

Especially, considering that the state Division of Highways’ (DOH) hiring shortfalls appear to be getting worse.

No, it’s not a question of the DOH’s stagnant wages, high retirement rates, competition with shale gas drillers or even its crisis of leadership.

Though almost every workplace has faced this issue from time to time, new software has put the brakes on the DOH’s hiring process — for months.

This past week, we reported on some local legislators who expressed concerns to the governor and to the DOH and the state’s Division of Personnel about this delay.

According to these lawmakers, it now take four months to get a new employee in the door at the DOH.

We realize that the hiring process — in the private or public sector — is not a matter of just pulling someone off the street.

It does take time and you need to do your due diligence on new hires.

However, this process at the DOH should not even take two months to hire a qualified applicant.

The last time we checked, the DOH has hundreds of unfilled positions statewide. More often than not, that shortage is further aggravated during the winter when 12-hour shifts become the norm for many DOH employees.

One legislator noted that he contacted the governor about this software glitch in May.

Admittedly, this software is the same wvOASIS program that’s proven problematic throughout almost every state agency.

In 2011, the state Legislature unanimously signed off on this software and since then, has probably wished it hadn’t.

Still, what has this lawmaker, who sounded this alarm about the DOH’s hiring glitch, been doing about this issue in the meantime.

The DOH is not some obscure agency that can hide in the shadows of the state government’s bureaucracy.

Legislators need to keep the spotlight on this agency every day and especially before frost starts clinging to the ground.

We are on the edge of a cliff already. Winter, unfortunately, looms larger each day.

Though rebooting this computer program still may not put more boots on the road, software should not delay hiring.

Of course, seasons do change in our region of West Virginia, but the DOH never does.


(c)2015 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)

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