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VDOT begins layoffs

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

RICHMOND — The Virginia Department of Transportation began notifying wage employees Tuesday of layoffs that are aimed at closing a $2.6 billion budget shortfall over the next six years.

So Tuesday and Wednesday, Hillsville Residency Administrator Bob Beasley gave the notifications from Richmond to the four 1,500-hour wage employees locally that will have their positions eliminated by June 6 at the latest.

One of the affected employees has worked for the Hillsville residency office for 15 years.

"It's a tough day," Beasley said.

The Wytheville residency, which covers Grayson County, was spared any layoffs as part of this most recent announcement, according to residency Administrator Matthew Cox.

This previously announced round of cuts comes as part of a total of 450 wage positions to be eliminated statewide. Further cuts will reduce the number of full-time VDOT employees by 1,000 — down from a total of 8,400.

"The reality of our budget shortfall means that we have to prioritize spending on safety-related projects and to maintain our existing highways," said VDOT Commissioner David Ekern in a news release about the layoffs. "We know that these decisions will impact the public and the lives of our valued professional staff, but we must make the sound business decisions necessary to ensure the long-term viability of Virginia's transportation system and our department."

VDOT will focus its efforts on emergency response, safety and operations, according to the news release.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board at its February meeting reduced the number of new highway projects to be built and revised the state's six-year improvement program to delay or eliminate 808 projects and save $2 billion in funds.

Still upcoming is an organizational restructuring and more layoffs.

The Hillsville residency is to be closed as a part of the VDOT reorganization. Residency services under the plan will be provided to Carroll County from Martinsville, which has raised objections from county supervisors, the Town of Hillsville and local citizens.

Further reductions in services — such as closing rest areas, reducing interstate maintenance services, safety service patrols, vegetation management and more — will comprise the third phase of the VDOT cuts.