Officials within the Alaska Department of Transportation (ALDOT) are looking at budget cuts outlined in Governor Bill Walker's recently published state budget proposal in advance of a pending legislative session. Cuts that may well have a significant impact on the agency’s ability to address statewide maintenance issues.
According to ALDOT spokesperson Jill Reese, the department could lose six snowplow and sandtruck drivers in the Turnagain Arm and Kenai Peninsula areas as a result of the maintenance budget reductions proposed in the governor's fiscal plan for 2017. The proposed cuts also include a reduction in overtime for remaining winter equipment operators as well 46 pieces of the department's equipment fleet and purchases of maintenance supplies such as guardrails and equipment grader blades.
"Part of that budget does show cuts to our maintenance and operations for the second year in a row," Reese said, admitting. "We were expecting to see that."
Overall, 52 statewide positions are identified to be eliminated in the 2017 fiscal year, of which 21 are full-time equipment operators and nine are part-time equipment operators. In fiscal 2016, ALDOT eliminated 95 positions statewide.
"We're trying to reduce positions by natural attrition rather than actually getting rid of bodies," Reese said. "We're hoping that will be a course of action we'll be able to pursue, otherwise we'll just need to cut some positions and then spread the rest of the guys among the areas to cover as best as possible. This season has been mixed in that we've had some dramatic weather impact us and so it's made any cuts that were made a lot more noticeable."