City employees remain dedicated
My name is Bill Gieg. Many of you know me from the 28-plus years my wife, Liz, and I have been part of this community. I have worked for the City of South Lake Tahoe for 17 years, and Harrah’s for 11 years. I coached baseball and soccer with many of your children over the years and directed a non-profit organization for the past 16 years (Church Family Missions). I have probably spoken at your church or social organization. My wife and I live in a two-bedroom home we purchased in 1985. I have two boys, 19 and 15. We take very few vacations and I drive an old truck that is the brunt of jokes at work. Like many of you it seems we are “always broke but never poor.”
Why am I telling you all this?
First to qualify myself as an example of the Tahoe middle class family with the same struggles as most of you, and secondly to let this preface my position as president of the South Lake Tahoe Employees Association. I have heard rumors and conjecture over the last couple weeks in regards to those I represent. And all of this is falsely creating some finger-pointing and whispers.
I represent about one-third of all city workers. They do not get the same attention as “Tahoe’s Finest,” but they are all around you keeping things going. They are the secretaries, the permit techs, the inspectors, the airport workers. They are the ones who keep the pool open for the kids and provide after-school programs. They assist and provide for the senior citizens at the senior center. They keep the ball fields open and provide a safe place for our children to play. They generate revenue for our great city by operating the golf course and campground. They are support workers at the police and fire stations. They are the mechanics who fix everything from a leaf blower to a motor grader. They work in purchasing, accounting and payroll. They maintain hundreds of miles of road and keep the roads clear so police cars and fire trucks can get to your home during an emergency. They answer the complaint calls and deal with building and permit issues. I could go on but basically they are the (blue collar) employees who are the foundation of the operation of the city. It is time that we respond to some of the questions now in the community.
“Are you guys on strike, and if not, what happened with snow removal on the New Year’s weekend?”
No, we are not on strike. It is true: we are in negotiations and have been for over a year. Months ago we addressed the City Council and asked that they get involved and participate in the solutions to issues yet to be resolved. This has built some frustration. Other units have closed their contracts, which include issues we have been denied. Although negotiations are protracted, we will continue to provide services to the people we value most, you the community.
Why would a plow driver retaliate or even care if a property tax initiative passes? His concerns are much simpler, “Does the machine run OK and is it safe?” If there is a problem with the machine, the mechanics fix it. End of that story.
Snow removal personnel have never been technically “on call.” We have always, as a courtesy, made ourselves available if a snow storm is imminent. If crew members have plans to leave on Friday, and it looks like snow, they put themselves on alert. If it was his child’s birthday, an anniversary, a vacation, or any other personal plans, he would sacrifice them when snow removal began. I know; I provide those support services. The weekend of the 31st was a unique situation. It had rained all weekend and was forecast to continue raining. A crew was working during the weekend on flooding problems. Another crew worked until 2 a.m. cleaning up the Stateline area. Monday the primary routes were plowed and the sanding truck kept trouble spots sanded. There was no time the public was at risk. This was the first winter holiday weekend in my memory that I had actually not been working. I assume others, including some drivers, thought the same as I did. Caltrans and the county often make the decision on Friday before the crew goes home to have staff in on Saturday or whenever the storm is forecast. This is great insurance for the community and could be part of a “contingency” plan to avoid this type of disruption in the future.
Let me close with a promise from all of us. We will continue to serve this fine city. We enjoy our work and serving you, our customers and fellow taxpayers. In the future, if it concerns us, ask us. If I don’t have an answer, I’ll find out for you. Write to P.O. Box 18010, South Lake Tahoe, 96151 or e-mail email@example.com. Please title them “citizen” so I don’t auto-delete.
– Gieg is president of the president of the City of South Lake Tahoe Employees Association, General and Public Works.
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