“It needs to be neighbors helping neighbors”: WSDOT refused Kittitas’ offer to clear snow over vax rules

ELLENSBURG, Wash. – Kittitas County officials say that WSDOT denied their help to clear masses of snow from congested roadways in last week’s storm because the county hadn’t implemented a vaccine mandate for employees.

Kittitas County signed an interlocal agreement with the Dept. of Transportation on November 30, 2021, to assist with emergency staffing after WSDOT let go of 48 employees because of vaccine mandates in mid-October.

RECENT: Snow poses trouble for Kittitas County residents, threatens to cause flooding

In a release issued Wednesday, the Kittitas County Department of Public Works says that it offered to help clear the state’s roadways following massive snowfall on January 11. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) denied that help over vaccine concerns.

“During these times, we need to be able to put differences aside and work to support one another,” states Commissioner Laura Osiadacz. “It needs to be neighbors helping neighbors and lending a hand to get the work done.”

NOVEMBER 2021: WSDOT says to expect travel delays, fewer snow plows due to staffing shortage

Major snowfall starting on January 5 shut down I-90 and U.S. Route 97 for three days. This delayed freight deliveries and curbed most travel within the state while making access to essential services difficult.

“I’m extremely proud of the work being done by our Public Works Department to be able to clear roads and be in place to be able to lend a helping hand to the State,” Commissioner Brett Wachsmith said. “It is unfortunate given the circumstances an agreement could not have come to fruition because we all want what is best for our community. At this time an agreement has not been reached.”

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While warmer weather is helping to chip away at the region’s snowpack, Kittitas County leaders are upset that their help was denied.

“This county is ready, as always, to put all hands on deck to solve this problem,” Commissioner Cory Wright said. “It’s time for logic and leadership to overcome ideology and allow skilled equipment operators working alone in their cabs to get this job done.”

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