MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee has raised wages to try and lure more drivers to help clear snow and ice, competing with other communities and companies for the same pool of workers, but they still have vacancies to fill.
The city got a brush of rough winter weather this week when a blast of snow iced over streets sending cars sliding on roads that had not yet been treated.
"That was not a predicted burst of snow and ice, but we responded as soon as our overnight patrols recognized that that was out there," said Danielle Rodriguez, director of operations at the city's Department of Public Works.
Winter is just getting started. City leaders said the fleet will cover more than 7,000 miles of streets, but right now the Milwaukee is down about 20% of its total drivers, meaning it needs 57 to help tackle roads.
Last month, the city raised the minimum hourly wage for drivers from about $20 an hour to almost $23 an hour. Mayor Tom Barrett said he hopes it lures people with a commercial driver's license who are in high demand.
"We know we have to pay more, we're paying more because we have to have the drivers," Barrett said.
It's not just Milwaukee. The City of Racine needs 14 drivers including full-time and seasonal, adding that they have lost some workers to public and private organizations that can pay more.
"We are all looking for the same thing and we just keep at it. We try to respond to what we know those drivers want to have and right now the first thing is that wage increase that we just did," said Rodriguez.
The city is actively recruiting and interviewing drivers. DPW said seven retirees have agreed to come back and work this season.
Leaders noted there are backup plans to work with private companies as well.