Critical positions needed for Jackson’s water treatment plants not advertised on city website

Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 10:28 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Environmental Protection Agency has made it clear that a staffing shortage is amplifying the city of Jackson’s continued water issues.

Last week, the agency noted the city’s dire need for more employees with a Class A certification. However, if you go to the city’s website, there’s only a total of five jobs listed at its two plants, and not a single one is for Class A operators.

“We do it through ‘Indeed’ and some other job search sites. We had a conversation to make sure that it’s on the city’s website as well,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said at his press conference Monday. “We have been working along with the EPA, and we’ve been working along with the Department of Health in order to bring the expertise in that’s necessary.”

I checked Indeed.com as well, and there’s actually even fewer positions posted than on the city’s website.

One position that is advertised on both sites is a Class D water plant operator. The only qualification listed for the job is a high school education.

The posting also says the employee has to become a Jackson resident within six months of taking the job.

Monday, I asked the mayor if the city plans to change that policy to attract more applicants, and he said it’s not something they’re enforcing at this time even though it’s advertised as such.

“That has not been a restriction that we have burdened our employees with, but whether we need to formally codify that in the ordinances within the city, I think is a good question,” the mayor said. “If you choose to live in Bolton, Mississippi, we’re not going to make you move from Bolton. The urgency is to have the professionals needed to help in our water treatment facility.”

As it relates to Class A operators, the mayor also said there’s not too many of them to choose from in the state.

“We’re not dealing with a large number of technical expertise in the area that we’re fighting for,” he said. “Often, we’re faced with creating that expertise ourselves.”

Mayor Lumumba also said Jackson’s water treatment facilities have suffered from a lack of investment over a number of years and a number of administrations.

“That’s lack of investment on its capital improvement,” the mayor said. “That’s lack of investment that has led to deferred maintenance, and that’s lack of investment in terms of the human capital that has walked out of the plant with the institutional knowledge in order to keep us going.”

Monday, he promised residents that his administration will be the one that gets it right.

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