- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - For 15 years, James Mobley has been part of state crews assigned to clear snow-packed roads in Kentucky, but he still has to work a second job on the farm to help provide for his family.

Mobley found out Monday that he’ll soon get a pay raise for helping keep the roads clear. The Henry County worker is among more than 2,600 state Transportation Cabinet employees in line for salary increases announced by Gov. Matt Bevin.

Raises will go to many of the cabinet’s lowest-paid employees. Workers covered include highway equipment operators, laborers, mechanics, machinists, welders and engineering technologists, the cabinet said. Some could see salary increases up to $3.20 per hour by January.

“It’s going to relieve some of the financial burden from my family,” Mobley said in an interview after Bevin’s announcement at a transportation salvage yard in Frankfort.

Mobley, whose wife works at a bank, said he stuck with the state job despite years without raises. The father of two teenagers attributed his patience to a lesson from his grandfather.

“He kind of taught me that you get somewhere and stay and it will pay off for you,” Mobley said. “And that’s what I thought all the way through this process, is that it’s got to get better. … He was right. It finally has paid off.”

Calling the pay raises long overdue, Bevin said they’re aimed at reducing high turnover rates.

“I know some of you have been waiting an awful long time, wondering if there would ever be adjustments,” he told a group of highway maintenance workers.

Transportation Cabinet Secretary Greg Thomas pointed to a “revolving-door attrition of employees” that has hampered efforts to retain a dependable workforce.

The Republican governor said transportation workers take on hard, thankless jobs, recalling his own stint as a highway department employee years ago.

“I appreciate that wearing a reflective vest when it’s 90-something degrees … is about the last thing you want to do, especially when you have traffic buzzing by you,” he said. “But it’s critical.”

About 60 percent of Transportation Cabinet employees will be in line for raises, cabinet officials said. The pay bumps will cost the cabinet more than $31 million annually, they said.

That expenditure will be offset by cost-saving efforts, including improved efficiencies for snow and ice removal operations and lower miscellaneous expenditures, the cabinet said.

Mike Mitchell said he makes $13.43 an hour after 10 years as a state highway equipment operator. With the raise, he’ll be able to buy more sports equipment for his young son, he said.

“It’s a long time coming,” he said. “We’re glad we finally got it.”

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