DOH struggles to find workers, low pay is cited

BRIDGEPORT – Hiring and keeping employees is a struggle for the West Virginia Division of Highways, which is trying to fill hundreds of vacant positions across the state.

Low pay is a factor in high turnover at the DOH, which has about 600 vacancies, DOH spokeswoman Carrie Bly said.

“We have a lot of people retiring, and you’re going to have people coming and going. It’s hard work, and the pay can be a turnoff for people. The pay has been a battle and always will be a battle,” Bly told the Exponent Telegram.

Bly said the agency would like to pay its employees more, but the funds are not there.

“We don’t have enough for road projects,” she said. “We have been strapped for funding for years. That’s why we have the Blue Ribbon Commission.”

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways, created by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, is holding public hearings across the state to gather citizen input on ways to fund road projects.

Bridgeport-based District 4 has the most vacancies, 67. Bly said that the other nine districts have been 40 and 50 vacancies.

District 4 manager Greg Phillips said that many of his district’s vacancies are truck driving positions, which are difficult to fill drivers can earn more money working in the oil and gas industry.

“They start them out $6 to $8 more an hour than we pay,” said Phillips, whose district encompasses 6,000 miles of road in six counties. “It’s hard for the Division of Highways to compete with that.

“We recently sent out 39 interview letters, and we didn’t get a call back,” he said.

Despite the difficulties in recruiting and keeping workers, the state is keeping up with road maintenance, said Department of Transportation spokesman Brent Walker.

“While we’re low, we’ve been able to get done what we need to do, but it does require a little extra work on behalf of some people,” Walker said.

About 830 temporary workers have been hired statewide for the summer. But most are interns who do office work, Bly said.