‘You query whether or not what you’re doing is the most effective factor’: VB public utilities division nonetheless therapeutic from mass capturing

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — You may argue that no division within the metropolis was affected extra by the mass capturing than the Division of Public Utilities.

Of the 12 people killed on May 31, 2019, six labored in public utilities on the second flooring of Constructing 2 on the Virginia Seashore Municipal Heart. As did one of many 4 who have been severely injured. The shooter himself was a nine-year veteran of the division.


The division, which has greater than 400 positions, is charged with offering water and sewer service to the most important metropolis within the commonwealth.

Within the quick aftermath of the capturing, Bob Montague, director of the division, was tasked with preserving the service supply going to the residents, whereas making ready to steer a workforce with people who had skilled the trauma of seeing their coworkers executed.

“Actually, ranks because the worst day of my life,” Montague stated final week. “Very onerous for any of us to consider that we’re already a 12 months out from this occasion.”


Montague spoke to 10 On Your Aspect from his non permanent workplace inside Metropolis Corridor. Till the capturing, it was the Price range Division’s convention room.

“I can inform you that the restoration on our division or another departments is nowhere close to full,” Montague stated.

Bob Montague

Emotional toll

Simply over a month after the capturing, public utilities employees described to city council members the daily horrors they skilled returning to work.


“On my technique to work I’ve — I’ve one spot I throw up at each morning,” stated Daryll Johnson, a public utility service supervisor on the time.

Montague stated nonetheless in the present day members of the division generally can not mentally work a full day, usually being triggered by new details about the case.

“Our members are human beings and they have been impacted in a means that is onerous to grasp until you undergo one thing like this,” Montague stated. “For no matter motive, they discover themselves in a frame of mind the place they aren’t productive and aren’t in a position to work and must go dwelling.”


The division has additionally seen a good quantity of turnover. At present, the enterprise division of public utilities, which is comprised of name heart, billing, accounts payable, finance staff, has a emptiness charge of 26 %. The engineering division’s charge is 17 %, which Montague explains represents progress.

“I don’t know essentially why individuals select to depart. However there may be not a doubt in my thoughts some left due to the capturing,” Montague stated.

Montague is hoping he can get particular permission to proceed to rent a number of positions. A citywide hiring freeze has been implemented because of COVID-19.


Work Circumstances

Not solely did the division lose the lives of six members, however they misplaced their office.

Apart from the Info Know-how Division within the basement of Constructing 2, the construction has been largely empty of individuals because the capturing. Days after the capturing, Mayor Bobby Dyer hinted staff working there that day would never be forced to return.

Whereas there is a plan to one day return the department to a permanent facility on the Municipal Heart, for final 12 months and for the foreseeable future, staff are scattered in buildings throughout town.


“Momentary services … are lower than preferrred,” Montague stated.

The all-important name heart is presently arrange in a former college cafeteria, which shares house with billing and back-office administration capabilities.

“It could actually turn out to be fairly noisy,” Montague stated.


In different circumstances, staff are understanding of closets was places of work and trailers. It’s a difficulty that isn’t distinctive to simply public utilities.

Finally, coupled with the emotional toll, it has helped cause a decrease in productivity.

“I’d ask that the public preserve their persistence with us as we proceed to attempt to heal,” Montague stated.


Private Reflection

Montague has labored for town in some capability since 1995. He was promoted to director in 2016 when now Appearing Metropolis Supervisor Tom Leahy was promoted to deputy metropolis supervisor.

Within the 12 months because the capturing, he has additionally been pressured to be taught what it’s wish to play the function of a therapist.

“In attempting to steer, you begin to query whether or not or not if you’re able the place you are succesful to do this,” Montague stated. “You query whether or not what you are doing is the greatest factor for your members.”


Claims have been made following the capturing that the shooter committed the shooting as a result of a toxic work environment. Nevertheless, an unbiased evaluate group employed couldn’t verify a widespread presence.

“By and huge, the overwhelming majority of our members assume that it’s a superb place to work,” Montague stated. “However the suggestions is good. I believe it’s good to know the place you really feel like there is concern so you can attempt to deal with it.”

Montague stated inside the final 12 months, he has made it a degree to understand he isn’t at all times going to “get it proper.”


What retains him coming to work?

Montague says he perseveres as a result of he is aware of that on the day of the capturing, his staff who have been killed have been doing their greatest to offer the most effective water and sewer service for the residents of Virginia Seashore.

“We are able to’t consider a greater technique to attempt to honor them than to hold on that legacy,” he stated.


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