Helena vacancies clogging housing pipeline

Nolan Lister

With longstanding vacancies in some of the most critical departments, the city of Helena is taking drastic measures to recruit employees and tackle a backlog of work by increasing wages and contracting out tasks previously handled in-house.

Of the total about 337 full-time equivalent positions within the city of Helena, only 33 are vacant, but those 33 positions are of critical importance.

Positions such as city planners, engineers, accountants and transit operators have been vacant for months, and Helena Finance Director Sheila Danielson told city commissioners during a mid-year finance review on Feb. 1 the vacancies are creating backlogs in the respective departments.

“The engineering department is empty pretty much, and the planning department is empty,” she said. “It’s really impacted operations, and the demand for those services have not gone away and they’re going up. I know in engineering they had a huge backlog in there. In community development there’s a huge backlog.”

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Additionally, interim City Manager Tim Burton said during interviews for the full-time position in late February that he is working to contract out the backlog in the city engineering office to

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