The snowstorm predicted to arrive Friday may provide a test that shows how well snow removal operations function in an era of furlough days for state workers.
Despite taking a pay cut by three furlough days a month, Caltrans officials say that crews will be out on the roads as per usual this weekend if needed, but officials with the Town of Mammoth and Mono County have concerns.
The highway is the life blood of the winter economy in the Eastern Sierra. Ray Jarvis, the Public Works Director for the Town of Mammoth says that if Caltrans cant clear the road, this would be a big deal for us. Last year was a not a heavy snow year, and Caltrans was able to keep the roads open as usual, but with the continued staff furloughs at Caltrans, Jarvis remains concerned.
Evan Nikirk, Public Works Director for Mono County, shares the concerns of his Mammoth Lakes Counterpart. Nikirk says, we are aware that there might be a problem and we are concerned.
How much snow does come in Friday is yet to be seen of course, but county staff is going to be prepared. Nikirk explained that plow operators will stay in the communities where there plows are located on Friday so they are not at risk of being stuck in their homes on the off chance that 395 shuts down.
Caltrans officials say that the Friday furlough days are for office staff. Maintenance crews can work the furlough days and bank the days off for the future, like a vacation. Craig Holste with Caltrans says that there will be crews out on the highway Friday. Permanent Intermittent winter staff is scheduled to start work December 1 as planned to bolster the winter crews. With the 15% pay cut, Holste says that morale has taken a hit. He says the Caltrans crews are dedicated employees who will go out and make sure the roads get plowed.