Public works crews in Bloomington-Normal are trying to reduce their risk for COVID-19 exposure.
A majority of public works employees in the Twin Cities are working limited shifts. Some are working every other week. Others are working every third week as both cities scale back to essential services.
That includes trash and recycling pickup, and responding to water main breaks and other emergencies.
Bloomington Public Works Director Kevin Kothe said routine maintenance will have to wait until the shelter-in-place order is lifted.
“Fixing inlets or patching streets, those types of non-emergency things are not being done right now,” Kothe said. “We are just addressing more emergency situations.”
He said nearly 60 of the department’s 160 employees, including administrators and engineers, are working from home. The rest of the staff is working on an every-other-week or every-third-week schedule, depending on the job.
John Burkhart, director of the Normal Water Department, said he's keeping about two-thirds of his staff at home each week so other workers are ready to step in if someone becomes infected with the coronavirus.
"If something came through the water department and someone got sick, we’d have a chance to get all 29 people sick in one day and then there’s only a couple of employees left to run the facility for multiple weeks,” he said.
Burkhart said the town's water supply or quality won't be affected by maintaining a skeleton crew. The CDC says the COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water.
Normal Public Works Director Wayne Aldrich said 17 of the department’s 43 employees are currently working, while the rest remain on call. He added much of the staff is cross-trained to handle various tasks in an emergency.
He asked residents to wait until their trash and recycling bins are full before setting them out so drivers can save time on their routes.
“They can make bigger piles instead of smaller piles, so this increases our efficiency of picking the waste up and this actually goes year round as well,” said Aldrich, adding the town is not picking up landscape waste at the curb -- a service that typically starts on April 1, but has been suspended due to the coronavirus.
Aldrich suggests composting those materials, or dropping them off at the town’s landscape waste collection site at 1301 Warriner St.
Administrative staffs both for both Bloomington and Normal continue to work from home.
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