Some towns have enough snowplow drivers, while others scramble

  • Plowing at Belletetes in Peterborough during the first snowstorm of 2022 Friday, Jan. 7. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Plowing the Peterborough Community Center during the first snowstorm of 2022 on Friday, Jan. 7. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The Hancock Department of Public Works. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Hancock Highway Department Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Plowing during the snowstorm on Jan. 7, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Plowing during the snowstorm on Jan. 7, 2022. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • A sign advertising for plow drivers outside the state highway shed in Hancock. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/14/2022 3:55:57 PM
Modified: 1/14/2022 3:55:04 PM

In a season where the state Department of Transportation has 100 openings for full-time snowplow operators and highway maintenance crews, some local towns are feeling the same squeeze.

“We’ve had a position pretty much open on and off for the last several years,” said Antrim Road Agent Jim Plourde.

Antrim’s Highway Department is down by two spots, a full-time member and a seasonal member. According to Plourde, part of the reason is the pay scale, which is too low to attract people to the job. 

“People are wanting a higher rate of pay to come in and do the same job that we came in at a lower rate of years earlier,” he said.

Temple is similarly having trouble filling an open position, an issue that Road Agent Kent Perry characterized as “lousy.”

“No one is particularly interested in the job,” he said. “Nobody’s interested, and if you have people who do call, you don’t really want them. This is not a job that you want someone off the street; it takes a lot of practice and training.”

That training is also part of why it’s been difficult to fill the spot, according to Perry -- licensing qualified plow operators is difficult.

In Bennington, Road Agent Matt Blanchard said the town’s situation is not particularly dire, but it would be helpful to have another hand on deck.

“We could use an extra hand, but we could probably make it work on our own,” he said. “It’s hard to split everything up, but we can.”

To pick up the slack in Temple, Perry said he hires a part-time plow truck, usually a resident, to help out. 

In Antrim, Plourde said the Highway Department has had to adjust its methods to make sure the job gets done.

“Over the past, we’ve been able to adjust plow routes and everything to be able to cover for the deficiencies,” he said. “And it seems like people within the town have been very understanding of us being shorthanded and everything, and have been graciously patient enough to allow us to do the job to the best of our ability.”

Other towns have found themselves flush with workers, including Francestown, where Road Agent Gary Paige said he hasn’t had a problem filling out his crew for a long time.

“We’re doing fine down here,” he said. “We’ve got the same crew that we’ve had for years.”

Greenfield, according to DPW Director James Morris, is more than fully staffed.

“We actually have more people than we’ve probably had in the past 10 years,” he said.

Likewise, Peterborough is fully staffed, which DPW Director Seth MacLean characterized as partially being a matter of good timing -- the town had a highway position open during the summer that was filled in late fall -- and partially related to how the town does business.

“I do know that we have always tried our best to make sure that we’re paying a fair and equitable rate,” he said. 

Plus, it’s not just the town’s highway department that does all the plowing, but rather a matter of shared responsibility for the DPW.

“We tend to look for people that have a bit of a more well-rounded background,” MacLean said. 

For towns that are having trouble, one of the concerns is that the problem will get worse as time goes on, according to Perry. This is because the majority of his team are in their 50s, he said, and on their way toward aging out.

“And there’s nobody behind us,” he said. “There’s going to be a real issue.”

Jaffrey is fully staffed with 10 town employees, plus an additional three contracted plow drivers, according to Superintendent of Highways and Facilities Todd Croteau, but spent eight months in the past year attempting to fill a facilities maintenance position, which is the position responsible for plowing the town’s sidewalks.

“It just seems to be the labor market right now,” Croteau said. “You drive down the street and you see everyone hiring. Seems like there should be enough labor to fill the jobs, but people aren’t applying.”

Croteau said the facilities maintenance position only got a handful of applicants, despite being advertised for months, with most applicants unqualified for the position, or didn’t return requests for interviews. 

“Four or five years ago, we would have had 30 applicants,” Croteau said. “It’s difficult to say the least.”


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