Kittitas County leaders: WSDOT refused help clearing roads over vaccine status; WSDOT says there’s more to the story

KITTITAS COUNTY, Wash.– Kittitas County leaders say Washington’s vaccine mandate for state workers got in the way of county crews helping clear roadways.

A post from Kittitas County Board of Commissioners said the Washington Department of Transportation turned down help from the county to clear state roads that still need it following last week’s winter storm. The commissioners said WSDOT told them it couldn’t accept the help because Kittitas County doesn’t mandate vaccines for county employees.

WSDOT said that isn’t the whole story.

Kittitas County reached out about clearing State Route 903 near the small town of Ronald, according to WSDOT. Then, the county informed WSDOT it couldn’t meet the “vaccination declaration required of all interlocal agreements and contracts with Washington state agencies since the August vaccine mandate announcement and October deadline.”

Since county crews were unable to help with clearing the road, it got a private contractor to clear the roadway with work beginning Wednesday morning.

State crews said it was important to note work in Ronald couldn’t be done with a large snowblower truck making a pass-through town because of the cars and houses nearby. So, it took more people and equipment to clear it out section by section.

Here’s a full statement from the Washington Department of Transportation:

State and local crews have been hard at work clearing their respective roads after massive snowfall hit the area Jan. 5 and 6, with avalanche dangers continuing for several days. WSDOT crews worked to clear avalanche danger and reopen roads and both Snoqualmie and Blewett passes reopened Sunday, Jan. 9.

Two days after I-90 re-opened, on Tuesday, Jan. 11, Kittitas County Public Works reached out about clearing State Route 903 near the small town of Ronald in unincorporated Kittitas County. County crews informed WSDOT they could not meet the vaccination declaration required of all interlocal agreements and contracts with Washington state agencies since the August vaccine mandate announcement and October deadline. With county crews not being an option to work on the state road, WSDOT secured a private contractor to clear the roadway with work beginning Wednesday morning, Jan. 12.

It’s important to note the work in Ronald couldn’t be accomplished with a large snow blower truck making a pass through town because of the vehicles and houses nearby. So, it took more people and vehicles to clear it section by section. The contractor, BKC Contracting out of Kittitas County, is providing dump trucks, excavators and bulldozers to complete this work.

Our crews continue to work long hours across the state to clear and treat roads as well as deal with flooding, blowing snow and other winter weather statewide as well as normal highway work and emergency response.

You can see the post from Kittitas County Board of Commissioners here.

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