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As usual, IDOT rumors are untrue

Monday, Apr 28, 2008

Rumors were swarming around Springfield last week that the Illinois Department of Transportation was going to idle all of its trucks starting May 1. The reason was the department is out of money to pay for fuel, forcing trucks off of the highways.

Actually, the rumors were broader than that. I was informed by several anxious IDOT employees that all construction work was to halt on May 1. The rumor was, indeed, rampant. More from Finke’s column

For the record, IDOT denied any orders have been issued to idle the fleet on May 1. At the same time, spokesman MIKE CLAFFEY said the department is facing a funding crunch and continues to look at ways to save money. The department already has said it is cutting way back on mowing along highways and that some district offices might idle trucks for one day a week to save fuel costs.

Asked if the department might resort to parking all of its trucks, Claffey repeated that IDOT is always looking at cost-saving measures, but that public safety will not be jeopardized.

* I talked to the governor’s office about this rumor last week and was told that a shutdown is not imminent. There are some big problems with IDOT’s budget, however, including a $46 million cost overrun on snow and ice removal and another big hole caused by higher fuel prices.

I was told that IDOT is “slowing things down.” For example, there is no overtime for routine purposes, just emergency services, like the recent earthquake, which necessitated emergency bridge inspections. Also, mowing is being slowed down as well.

There is a supplemental appropriations bill sitting in the House to cover the funding shortfall, but nobody knows whether that will ever pass. As the fiscal year comes to a close, more slowdowns could happen.

IDOT is a rumor hotbed, so any time you hear somebody swear that trouble is afoot over there, take it with a huge grain of salt.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - VanillaMan - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 10:37 am:

    Working in a rumor warehouse is exhausting. I won’t do it. My job is just a part of my life, not my entire life. So when I am approached by a coworker with inside information, I just try to be polite and listen, but not contribute.

    Rumor mongers consider themselves smarter than those they report to and work for. They consider themselves smarter than their coworkers. Then they often have a the feeling they are victimized and owed by those they consider inferior.

    I have been politically appointed to positions before and felt the stinking rebuke of coworkers who felt slighted by my appointment. I don’t believe they realize they treat folks like me in the manner they falsely accuse others of treating them. It is so unprofessional. Rumor mongering is a reason to not promote employees. I wouldn’t promote someone who believes that questions primary source information, official source information, with crappy rumors.

    I would be interested if anyone has done any studies about organizations that are rumor hotbeds, and those that are not and what could be done within organizations that need to end this ridiculous practice.

  2. - Leave a light on George - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 10:39 am:

    rumor is IDOT has been a dumping ground for patronage jobs. True?

  3. - VanillaMan - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 10:39 am:

    –I wouldn’t promote someone who believes that questions primary source information, official source information, with crappy rumors.–


    I wouldn’t promote someone who questions primary and official source information yet value crappy rumors.

  4. - Uncle Milty - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 10:48 am:

    Those rumors about the trucks shutting down were being spread by D.O.T. brass themselves in arguing for their supplemental appropriation.

    They were not rumors, they were actual arguments being used by D.O.T. to convey urgency for their extra funding.

  5. - Judgment Day Is On The Way... - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 10:49 am:

    According to my sources, it’s not $46 mil, it’s closer to $90 mil.

    And also, they are (and have been) idling road crews one day a week for a while now. They still come into work and get paid, just don’t go out to work on tasks.

    Also, there’s wholesale movement of IT folks between different Departments. Lots of IT people are being moved out of “secondary” departments (like IDNR, even IDPH) and into “primary” departments like IDOT.

    Not much choice in the matter, either from what I’m hearing.

  6. - Rich Miller - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 10:51 am:

    ===According to my sources, it’s not $46 mil, it’s closer to $90 mil.===

    No. They’ve spent $86 million on snow and ice removal, but were budgeted at $40 million.

  7. - Joe Schmoe - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 11:04 am:

    Roadside mowing is the biggest waste of money there is. In the bright, fresh, young days of the administration, the Patty Blagojevich wildflower program was started, spending tens of thousands of dollars to beautify the interstate highways of Illinois. Obviously, after the first year, everyone forgot about that great plan because most of the flowers were mowed down the next year.

    It seems to be a bigger waste of time to cut in the fall when the higher grass should act as a good snow fence to prevent drifting in the winter time.

  8. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 11:11 am:

    Reminds me of the Rumor Song (from “Hee-Haw”)

    Now, we’re not ones to go round spreadin’ rumors
    Why really, we’re just not the gossipy kind!
    Oh, you’ll never hear one of us repeating gossip!
    So you’d better be sure and listen close the first time.

    Rich: Out of curiosity, what was the ratio of IDOT rumor-mongers to truth-tellers in your dealings on this subject?

  9. - Rich Miller - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 11:19 am:

    ===Rich: Out of curiosity, what was the ratio of IDOT rumor-mongers to truth-tellers in your dealings on this subject?===

    Almost every IDOT rumor is untrue.

    And that predates Blagojevich’s administration, by the way.

  10. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 11:49 am:

    Rumors abound in the absence of reliable information and strong leadership. Lots of that going around state government now, it seems.

  11. - Irish - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 12:18 pm:

    I have little experience with IDOT “rumors” but I do know that “rumors” in our Department are often test statements used to get feedback from the public without looking stupid. In this administration there have been many times a “rumor” would start making the rounds and elciting reaction from employees and the public. When pressed on the factualness of the “rumor” policy makers would deny it was true. However if it did not get a lot of negative feedback, it would mysteriously become policy. If it created an uproar it would just as mysteriously disappear. I have personally asked high higher ups about a “rumor” and been told it wasn’t even being considered. Then read several weeks later in the paper that it was going into effect. The thrust of this administration appears to be PR (no surprise here) rather than doing what’s right. It is sad to say but I think the concern of many employees is changing from doing their job to worrying about their future and protecting themselves as much as possible. In that climate fear and uncertainty cause any off hand remark to become the next “rumor”. This is not unique to state employees either, it is a product of very poor economic times.
    IDOT now, all other Departments soon. By the time Blago is done there will be little left of most state agencies. What a lot of taxpayers and voters do not understand is that the lack of action in the Legislature has caused everhtning in the field to slow down also. Without knowing whether or not their will be a budget means nothing can be planned for the next fiscal year. Cuts in budgets and rising utility and fuel costs mean most of limited budgets go to cover those expenses. Lack of staff and no money mean the agencies are slowly grinding to a halt. The whole time we were waiting for a budget last fiscal year we were directed “do not buy anything”. Heck of a way to run a railroad.

  12. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 12:27 pm:

    IDOT sent a letter out last week that said (in part):
    “Without the supplemental appropriation, the department must take drastic actions… We are looking at all options, but the bottom line is we must drastically reduce our fuel consumption. One option we are considering is temporarily shutting down construction projects…”

  13. - Chanson - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 12:51 pm:

    If more road money was spent on roads, bridge construction and maintenace instead of a top heavy administration and Aeronautics costs, then there would be no emergency.

  14. - Anon Again - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 12:53 pm:

    Hope they dont need any salt or plows tonight if it snows and freezes, I thought IDOT had some of the best finance minds in the country did they forget to plan or too busy working on shared services

  15. - Huh? - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 1:20 pm:

    Is it a rumor when all the construction personnel are called at 4:30 on a friday afternoon and told to report to the conference room on monday at 1:00 so they can be given instructions to suspend their project(s) and park the state vehicle? Actual events. The conference room meeting occured on April 21.

  16. - Anon - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 1:28 pm:

    Better do good newspaper work and ask ” What does slowing things down” mean. It seems to be more than you are led to believe. Supervisors and engineers parking vehicles and now using their personal cars to and from jobsites starting May 1st? Whens the last time these people got a raise instead of a boot in the behind?

  17. - Anon Again - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 2:53 pm:

    Rich do you or does anyone know the Senat Bill number for the IDOT supplementa appropriation/

  18. - IDOT distric 2 dixon - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 4:33 pm:

    Sorry folks but it is fact that IDOT trucks will be idle except for extreme emergencies , we were told today to fuel up the trucks before thursday, the fuel money is gone. Looks like a long summer in the garage.

  19. - NIEVA - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 4:36 pm:

    Rich, I saw the memo that has all bosses and uppers parking their trucks and cars at their reporting station and forcing them to drive to that station in their own vehicle as of May 1st..

  20. - Rich Miller - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 4:40 pm:

    Nieva, that’s not the same as parking all IDOT trucks. What you saw is not that huge of a deal. The rumor was that all IDOT trucks were gonna be parked. Not true.

  21. - Idotter - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 4:55 pm:

    “Almost every IDOT rumor is untrue.”

    I would agree with that; especially the rumors that undoubtedly start from the bottom and work their way up. However, I’m not sure what rumors are called when they come from the top-brass down.

    We are having staff meetings to discuss marching orders from Deputy Directors about the impending May 1st shutdown. All maintenance operations will be ceased except for emergency call outs.

    Bloating deer on the shoulder?: not an emergency; potholes?: not an emergency; mowing?: heck no, except for sight-distance issues; stop signs and traffic signals?: yes; non-critical signs?: no; paint striping?: not an emergency; maintainers sitting in the yards?: put a broom or a paint brush in their hands.

    Office engineering and staff will be confined to the office. No field checks, no scoping trips, no surveying, no nothing except bridge inspections which are mandated by federal law. All meetings, conferences, etc. that require travel are canceled and to be rescheduled once the FY 09 budget is passed.

    Construction field personnel: road and bridge contractors will continue to work and our field staff will continue oversight but no overtime even when the contractor works overtime (since that is always this would pretty much be a joke even with a certain amount of split-shifting). This will continue for 2 weeks and then the Department will try again to suspend all ongoing contracts.

    If this is a rumor then it is a doozie that comes all the way from the top.

    I think Irish pretty much hit on the heart of the matter.

    Someone please stop the madness.

  22. - NIEVA - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 5:08 pm:

    That is correct Rich,also some districts are parking trucks one day per week

  23. - IDOT Guy - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 5:56 pm:

    We were told the same thing that IDOTTER mentioned in District 4 today by the big bosses. Unless it is a safety issue it isn’t getting done. No take home vehicles. Construction is going to continue for a week or two utilizing “swing shifts” to avoid overtime, we were told if there wasn’t any other money by then that construction projects would be shut down.

    Its going to be stinky, people don’t realize how many dead deer we pick up!!!!!

    It may not be “every” truck Rich, but the ones that do the essential maintenance work (the big orange ones) will not be moving, except in a case of emergency.

  24. - anon - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 6:30 pm:

    Ditto IDOT Guy. District 5 was told the same thing. So much for rumors.

  25. - Ask Bill Holland - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 7:06 pm:

    If IDOT is in such a financial mess like never before I would hope that the Illinois Auditor General Bill Holland and his folks take a look at expenditures. Wouldn’t be surprised if during the course of this administration that all kinds of monies have been shifted around at IDOT and has they not been this issue may not be an issue at all. Follow the money!!!!!

  26. - IDOT engineer - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 8:04 pm:

    District 8 was told the same thing – All state cars are to be parked May 1st. If there is no supplemental budget in place by Friday May 9th, then all projects are to be shut down on Monday May 12th. Personally, I think this is just a scare tactic.

    BTW – to “Leave a light on George - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 10:39 am: “ It is very true – IDOT has and is a dumping ground for patronage jobs. Especially in District 8 – Hoffman and Costello are dumping every unqualified hack (baby-sitters, retired plumbers, waitresses, nut-jobs, etc) into a position. I especially liked the lady who was promoted (after less than 1 year) to the Bureau Chef position and she couldn’t even read the district map – but what would you expect with a GED.

  27. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 8:34 pm:

    Awww. Is that what happened with the prarie grass, etc.? I was wondering because one year, traffic was being blocked by trucks with workers planting things. The next, everything seemed to be level with the ground.

    Good call. You have to wonder whether it’s a maintenance issue, or whether even our Illinois weeds can’t prosper in this state anymore.

  28. - Fed Up State Employee - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 8:42 pm:

    Judgment Day 10:49

    The wholesale move of IT people to IDOT, via the governator’s Exec Order 2008-1 was stopped by the Senate on a 40-2 vote last week, with President Jones voting with the majority.

    What “you’re hearing” is wrong so there is a choice in the matter….for now.

  29. - Go ahead and bring in Bill Holland - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 9:23 pm:

    Fact 1:The only funds that are depleted are the road fund. Fact 2: This was one of the worst winters in the last 10 years. Therefore money was not budgeted for a terrible winter. Fact 3:It is GWB that has caused gas prices to rise at a astronomical rate. So please bring in Bill.

  30. - Proud IDOT Worker - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 9:34 pm:

    IDOT is in a financial mess not because of their own doing, but because of CMS’s pilfering of MFT monies and total lack of leadership from the top down.

    CMS charges IDOT exorbetent lease fees for buildings they already own and those fees come from Operations since they are the deep pockets in the Districts. It’s not that Operations overspent on salt and fuel this year, they had to give up that money right off the top to pay the CMS bills that they started implementing a few years ago and demanded payments in arears.

    BTW, I just finished up with the CMS auditors in our District and they were very pleased with our documentation and purchasing records. CMS needs to look in the mirror and audit themselves. Oh wait, following the money trail there will only implicate themselves and the Guv for backdooring the MFT Road Funds. What was I thinking.

    Rich, you better check your sources with the IDOT rumors as they are more true than you think.

    We have already been implementing parking trucks one day a week. According to a teleconference call from our Regional Engineer this morning, as of May 1st, all of Operations trucks will be shut down unless it is an emergency or safety issue. Techs and engineers are parking their vehicles at locked facilities overnight. Labor Relations is meeting with the Teamsters Union tomorrow afternoon to notify them that the Lead Workers will be parking their trucks overnight at the Team Sections as well. As trucks are coming up for 6 month inspections, they are being deadlined if they need any kind of repair. All purchasing of commodities is halted. All meetings requiring any kind of travel are cancelled. They are looking at shutting down Construction jobs in a couple of weeks if things don’t turn around.

    You will not find written documentation on any of this. They don’t want this hitting the media and it’s all being purposely done in a series of teleconference calls. We are being told specifically not to be passing this down the chain via email, so draw your own conclusions.

    If this is all rumor, then please cite your sources as I would very much like to get back to business as usual again and serve the motoring public.

  31. - Frustrated Democrat - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 9:44 pm:

    IDOT has the power of 2% sweep of funds just like every other agency. Haven’t heard that power invoked yet.

  32. - Truth - Monday, Apr 28, 08 @ 10:06 pm:

    It sounds like everything is swell at IDOT. That is one smooth running operation.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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