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Union says it keeps fixing traffic signs bungled by contractors

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sdf Photo Credit: RJ Mickelson

Is this a sign of waste?

The union representing city workers who install traffic signs say they are regularly cleaning up botched jobs done by outside contractors – and it’s wasting taxpayer money.

“You’re throwing money away for contracting out,” said Mike DeMarco, president of the Traffic Employees Local 1455, a union representing 275 traffic device maintainers.

DeMarco said fixing bad signs put up by contractors cost about $200 a pop in labor and material for a three-person crew. Without giving a firm number, DeMarco said sometimes they do up to three of these repair jobs a week.

The city has put out bids for sign work worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but DeMarco is asking why spend so much on contractors when government workers can do it on the cheap.

“We already do very little work in-house. If (the city wants) to save money, give us the work,” he said yesterday.

DeMarco said his crew receives orders to fix signs that pose a safety hazard or don’t meet federal guidelines, such as those installed lower than 7 feet or have the wrong kind of lettering.

They’ve also seen contractors install extra rails or put signs in at wrong angles, which can be unfair to drivers because they can mistakenly overlook them, DeMarco said.

The city Department of Transportation could not immediately provide how many signs are installed incorrectly each year, but says it’s minimal given the tens of thousands of signs affixed annually.

The DOT orders contractors to repair bungled signs, but also uses city workers when the mistakes pose an immediate safety concern, confirmed Michael Harnett, a DOT chief engineer. Contractors can be billed for the work the city does, but it’s unclear how often — and how much — they get charged

Harnett added that using contractors is necessary since there aren’t enough city workers for all the jobs.

Still, DeMarco contends that having workers do more would be cheaper in the long run.

“Our guys can handle the work,” he said.

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