Wausau Water Works faces staffing shortages ahead of new facility opening

Smaller staff can lead to burnout and safety issues
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 6:59 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Wausau Water Works is getting ready to open a new water treatment facility. However, they’re in desperate need of staff.

Public Works Director Eric Lindman told me not having enough staff leads to staff burnout which could impact their safety by being less attentive on the job.

Lindman said the city is currently complying with all waste and drinking water recommendations, but its has been a challenge with a smaller staff.

“It makes it very difficult for us to maintain compliance with the utilities, drinking water and wastewater,” said Lindman, Director of Public Works and Utilities.

Especially, he said, when employees are burnt out and overworked.

“I mean these guys are up 16, 18, 20 hours at work. We don’t want to work people that much just because there is safety issues with the equipment and the type of work that they do,” said Lindman.

He gave the example of Jackson Mississippi. Their city is providing people who live there bottled water to drink. It’s because of a failed water system driven by a lack of staff to deal with the aftermath of mother nature on an unkept water system. Lindman said more, and quality, staff is key to making sure that doesn’t happen here.

“We need skilled people in and we need to be able to retain them,” said Lindman.

That’s why Wausau Water Works in the process of a staffing assessment, which mainly focuses on wages. The assessment will compare how much people are paid at similar places with the same job duties.

“What we’re finding is that we continually, over the years, were low,” said Lindman.

Lindman says some positions are as much as $8-10 low. Meaning Wausau isn’t a good competitor with other areas. Which leads to hiring and retention problems. This is all leaving little hope for the new water treatment plant scheduled to be finished in October.

”If we can’t hire already for positions that we have, right, you know we have to fill that gap,” said Lindman.

Lindman said wage increases will be proposed for the 2023 city budget once they learn more from the staffing assessment. They’re expected to have results complete before the end of the year.