Push for hazard duty pay for Delaware road crews

A DelDOT snow plow clears the roads near Rehoboth Beach on Thursday. (Chuck Snyder/for WHYY)

A DelDOT snow plow clears the roads near Rehoboth Beach on Thursday. (Chuck Snyder/for WHYY)

Delaware state Senator Bryan Townsend said Delaware Department of Transportation workers should get hazardous duty pay for hours worked clearing and salting roadways, among other things.

“They’re expected to show up very quickly in storms, and to patch roadways, and to clear fallen trees on roads and they’re expected to show up and help people get to work and help people drive safely, but we’re not even going to reward them. I just felt it was a disservice,” said Townsend, D-Newark.

Townsend sponsored Senate Bill 168 two years ago. Had it passed, DelDOT employees would have been paid more for hours worked in treacherous conditions.

State Democratic Party Executive Director Jesse Chadderdon used Thursday’s blizzard-like conditions to call out Senate Republicans who voted against SB 168 in 2016.

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“Today is a good day to look outside and remember that Republicans in Delaware voted against offering hazardous duty pay to the men and women of DelDOT out there working through blizzard conditions,” said Chadderdon in a statement.

Senate Republicans responded on Facebook saying members of their caucus voted against the bill because it violated policy requiring road construction funds to be spent solely on road construction.

Townsend said he worked with DelDOT leaders at the time to ensure the funding for the bill would not come from new DMV fees and tolls approved in 2015, which was designated for road projects.

“So for Republicans to say that new road revenues would have gone to plow drivers in hazardous situations was just false. Those revenues went to new projects. The fact of the matter was there were pre-existing funds [in the state’s Transportation Trust Fund] that could’ve been used to pay hazardous pay to people in hazardous situations,” Townsend defended.

When asked why Townsend didn’t introduce the bill last year, he said he wanted to avoid filing legislation that came with any real price tag because it was such a tough budget year.

It was estimated it would cost the state $2.47 million annually to cover about 1,000 DelDOT employees, who qualified for hazardous duty pay.

“I’ll introduce this next week and see who wants to sign on. And I would love it if Republicans are willing to sign on and say, you know what, these are hard-working people that we expect to come out and plow our roads, you know, Johnny-on-the-spot, be there and get it done so people can get to work.”

“We have a tremendous respect for the working people of the Delaware Department of Transportation, and especially for those out plowing roads and trying to make the best of this terrible weather,” stated the Senate Republicans, on Facebook. “And we surely respect them enough to not try and use them as political pawns while they’re doing so.”

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