KDOT, Westar Energy Plan Layoffs

By: Giang Nguyen Email
By: Giang Nguyen Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Both the Kansas Department of Transportation and Westar Energy say months of internal reviews of their budgets and structure led them to consider layoffs at their respective organizations.

KDOT on Friday announced plans to reduce 40 positions at its headquarter in Topeka in an effort to maximize resources and reorganize staffing.

"KDOT like all agencies is looking for efficiencies and cost savings," Steve Swartz, KDOT's public information officer, said.

"We have a new Secretary as of the last four months, his charge when he came in here was to do a thorough, internal review of how KDOT operates, how it's structured," he said.

The agency has not notified specific employees, but expects to do so in the next two weeks once its layoff plan is approved by the State Department of Administration.

"This [number] represents about five percent of our headquarter staff. Field offices are not included in this and we have about two thirds of KDOT's workforce out in the field," Swartz said.

He added that the reduction won't be felt by Kansas residents and travellers.

Like KDOT, Westar Energy is trying to maintain its level of service while reducing the cost of business.

"It is a budget driven initiative," Gina Penzig, Westar Energy Director of Corporate Communications, said. "Last fall we went to the KCC [Kansas Corporation Commission] and we had asked for a rate increase of $90 million dollars."

After deliberations, "we came to a settlement agreement that increased our rates by $50 million. That settlement was sufficient to be able to provide good reliable servive to our customers, but it also sends a clear message that it wasn't going to be business as usual," Penzig said.

She would not elaborate on how many positions would be affected.

"It's a fairly small percentage of our workforce," she said.

Penzig said employees would be notified in person over the next few months if a position is affected.

Both Westar and KDOT say it's a tough decision but one that's necessary to stay lean.

"While we know this is difficult on some individuals and families, it is part of making state government more efficient," Swartz said.

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