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Local officials under pressure to deal with pothole epidemic

Published: Tue, March 11, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

Local officials under pressure to deal with pothole epidemic

It’s no accident (the use of this word is intentional) that residents of Mahoning County have not criticized county Engineer Patrick Ginnetti and Sheriff Jerry Greene for taking the initiative in responding to a major crisis in our communities: the invasion of the potholes.

It is almost impossible to keep to your lane when driving on some roads, and it’s a major accomplishment if you’ve avoided a visit to your tire store or your mechanic.

Residents are demanding action from their local governments to eliminate this public hazard. That’s exactly what the engineer and sheriff have done.

But before we comment on the initiative, it’s important to point out that there isn’t enough money in any of the public treasuries for the street (road) departments to hire all the workers needed to address the pothole problem.

Indeed, the length and severity of the winter storms have all but depleted many of the street-department budgets. And, crews have been working such long hours that at least one foreman has acknowledged having difficulty in getting workers to come out on extra overtime.

Yes, it has been the perfect storm.

Against that backdrop, Engineer Ginnetti and Sheriff Greene agreed on the use of day-reporting (non-incarcerated) inmates to pick up the pothole-filling slack. The operative words are pick up the slack. The inmates are not being used instead of the unionized street department workers and are not depriving them of overtime work.

Nonetheless, Teamsters Local 377, which represents the engineer’s road maintenance staff, has filed a grievance concerning the use of inmates for free labor. At the heart of the complaint is the Teamsters’ contention that Ginnetti did not discuss in advance use of the inmates.

Union officials may have a reason to complain about not being consulted, but we would hope they don’t lose sight of the big picture.

The taxpayers of the county — by extension, the employers of public-sector workers — aren’t interested in the nuances of the labor agreements. They just want the potholes filled.

It is noteworthy that all three commissioners, David Ditzler, the chairman, Anthony Traficanti and Carol Rimedio-Righetti, endorsed the use of day-reporting inmates because they have been hearing the complaints from their constituents.

“I think it’ll be worked out,” Ditzler said of the flap involving the engineer and Teamsters Local 377. He rightly pointed out that the engineer’s office uses paid summer workers to cut grass.

If there is no agreement, however, the issue will go to arbitration.

Getting worse

The driving public knows that things are going to get worse before they get better. As the weather changes and temperatures rise, the permafrost will begin to melt. That will cause even greater deterioration of the asphalt. Today’s potholes could become tomorrow’s cave-ins.

If the current problems are any indication, local governments are going to need a lot of people working a lot of hours to deal with this epidemic. And, they don’t have the money to hire full-time employees.

Ginnetti and Greene are to be commended for doing what taxpayers have long demanded: Putting certain inmates to work so they’re actually paying their debt to society.

We urge the commissioners to continue supporting the engineer and sheriff and to solicit the public’s support for the inmate-work program. That shouldn’t pose too much of a challenge.


1NoBS(2827 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Yes, things will eventually be worked out. Wouldn't it have been a novel idea if things had been worked out BEFORE the *stuff* hit the fan? Why does it take the union having to stand up for its rights, knowing they'll be painted as the bad guys, for anyone to even admit there's a legally binding contract in place, and which must be honored? The road workers aren't unreasonable people, but they know all too well that if they drop their guard for one second, rights people have sacrificed in order to secure can be lost. It's happened all too many times already.

The politicians are interested primarily in keeping their political jobs. All else is secondary to that goal. Yes, they want the roads perfect and smooth, but only so the public will stop being angry with the politicians. They don't care one iota about the workers themselves, beyond the workers making the politicians look good.

Greene should have known better than to violate the road workers' contract. It's not like he doesn't deal with union contracts as part of his job. But Ginetti just plain failed to do his job. It's his job to deal specifically with road workers' union matters. How could he possibly forget that a contract is in place? One that requires him to follow certain procedures, and talk to union officials if any deviation from that contract is desired? If the union workers had simply decided to do something like bringing in an expert who recommends a different, more efficient method of administration for the county road department, and the workers then just followed the guy they brought in, with no notice to Ginnetti, do you think someone would object? That's exactly what's going on here, except the tables are turned.

Administration dropped the ball here. I'd like, just once, to hear them admit they made a mistake, and that they were wrong and the union was right. I'm not holding my breath.

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2HappyBob(360 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago


But the Union is doing what their members expect them to do - that is file a grievance. If the thrust of that grievance is that the union wasn't notified, fine. The county can say sorry, and try not to let it hapen again. Grievance resolved.

If the grievence is demanding that only union employees be used to deal with this crisis - then they can go pound ......(asphalt).

The engineer and sheriff are doing what is in the best interest of the public. Thanks!

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3Photoman(1248 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

Yes, it shouldn't be that much of a problem but since our "Pothole Saviors" team consists of Union(politicians), attorneys(politicians) and elected officials(politicians) there remains much doubt in my mind if ever there will be any noticeable results.

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4andersonathan(687 comments)posted 2 years, 4 months ago

I know of a vast workforce out there that by law are required to work to receive WELFARE, of course union politicians lawyers and most likely by the time family services hire some one to run there end snow will be flying in Nov 2014.

So I recommend to send all front end alinements, front end repair [ball joints] tire and rim damage to the local officials. just make copies and send them around thanking them for our streets make sure the Union hall gets a copy also. Then name a section of a street in your letter just 2-3 blocks.

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