Doing the heavy lifting

It’s the troops in the trenches who make the difference. Those few people who showed up at the last county commissioners’ meeting and protested a suggested year-end bonus for many county employees failed to remember this.

One suggested that the $20,000 some-odd dollars set to go to employee rewards could be spent gravelling her road. She forgot who would do the work.

She forgot that, while county leadership put that government in financial jeopardy, there was a cadre of workers who pulled the wagon, day in and day out, keeping the basic level of services up to par as often as possible, and to the best of their ability.

In any organization, once you strip away the blather about leadership and you ignore the bluff about the guiding concepts and theories, it is the quality and character of the worker that matters most. It is with the workers that the success of the venture lies; without them, you have nothing.

Want a clear example? Take the recent storms that dumped heavy snow on Pagosa Country, and consider the work done by state, county and town crews to clear that snow from roadways.

There are residents who believe their stretch of road should be paved with gold (or bonuses), who gripe about the service. Not us. We have been here a long time, and we know how difficult is the task; we know how hard is the labor required to even stay abreast of a major winter storm.

Take the county crew responsible for plowing 340 miles of road. During the storm last week, 14 crew members, including the department supervisor, worked with 10 motor graders, three dump trucks with plows and sanders, and several barely useful pickups with plows, on 14-hour shifts Monday and Tuesday. Starting at 2 a.m. they worked 14 hours and took six hours off, then went back for 14 more. They were back out early Christmas Day and all day Friday. Some went out on Saturday, after the storm abated. They worked to first clear main roadways. They worked then to clear secondary roads, then they went back to widen paths, to push snow past the shoulders in preparation for snow to come. Fourteen hours shifts. Six hours rest.

Many members of the town crew worked similar hours. Town parks staff took the wheels of plows and front loaders to clear snow from streets. Administrators shoveled snow in front of town buildings.

State highway crews worked overtime on U.S, 160 and 84. Ever see Wolf Creek Pass after a huge storm? Ever reckoned with the task of shooting down avalanches, of clearing the snow and debris?

The workers did it. And will likely continue to deal with similar situations for at least the next two months.

Private contractors do much the same, clearing snow from driveways, working on contract with metro districts. You get impatient when you follow a slow-moving front loader or Bobcat as it moves down the road, but the driver — a worker — is on his or her way to dig someone out.

And what about the other workers we too often take for granted? The law enforcement officers who remain on call during the worst of storms; the EMTs and paramedics; the firefighters; the dispatchers who take your call when you have trouble? What of the utility company workers who, regardless of conditions, respond when the power goes out, when phone lines go down?

Workers, all.

The men and women in the trenches.

The people who, in reality, make things go, make things work.

We have every right to complain about inept leadership, incompetent direction. We have the obligation to salute those who do the heavy lifting. To give them our thanks, and fair remuneration, whenever we have the chance.

Karl Isberg