Third of Elkhart Co Highway Department drivers laid off - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Employees shocked after Elkhart County Highway Department lay-offs


Ten employees from the Elkhart County Highway Department were laid off Friday morning. With there being 33 drivers total, the county let go of nearly one third of their driving crew.

Jessica Miller, a driver for the county, was one of those laid off. She says, "They started naming them off, and I was probably like 4th or 5th and I was like, 'Huh? I wouldn't be getting let go!'" Miller says it was confirmed when she walked into the county garage with nine of her coworkers. "There were three cops waiting in there [along with] the foreman. [I was] just trying to process everything. I was in shock," she says.

"Last year, we began taking a harder look at really reorganizing, restructuring," says Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder. He confirmed the layoffs and says they had no choice because they were receiving less money from the state. County Administrator Tom Byers says the highway department has been receiving less money from the state for the past four to five years.

Yoder says they are retasking and restructuring their entire department so that highway workers aren't single-tasking. "We've reduced the staff in the garage. We have fewer mechanics because we're outsourcing some of that work," he says. Current employees will be trained to perform the tasks the laid-off employees were doing.

He says during the harsh winter, the highway department hired outside snow plow companies to experiment how it would effect the budget. Yoder says now, with budget problems and the recent layoffs, they are looking at what companies to hire during the winter months.

County drivers say they have had to pick up the slack for those outside companies. Miller recalls having to go replow County Road 33, "It was embarrassing to go over there and plow that again. I had drivers and semi drivers looking at me shaking their head. I was embarrassed to be a driver," she says.

Yoder says the Highway Department is continuing to look at what works and what doesn't. He says employees who can do more than just drive were the ones who were spared. He says, "It all goes to being a more efficient department and using our tax dollars more efficiently."

We called Highway Manager Jeff Taylor to determine the amount of money these layoffs will save the County, but he did not return our calls.  Yoder says they will be finding out how much the layoffs will save in the next few weeks.

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