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Mountain News: Labour pool gets tighter

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By Allen Best

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – Judging by the advertisements in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, the labour shortage has increased 20 per cent from last year. The newspaper explains the listings occupy eight pages, compared to six pages last year.

Many employers continue to look abroad, using the popular — but increasingly slow — H-2B visa program. Labour officials blame a 30 per cent increase nationwide in applications for slower responses to applications.

In Jackson Hole, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Service has received applications for 1,682 workers this summer.

Ned Brown, a restaurateur who applies for the workers each summer and winter, says getting the foreign workers is expensive. He pays hundreds of dollars per worker, plus a $1,000 fee to the federal government to expedite his application. “For three months it’s a pretty steep price, but I don’t have another option,” he said.

But the Grand Teton Lodge Co. received approval for about 200 guest workers without complication. Bob O’Neil, director of human resources, said his company is experienced and it also rehires employees season after season, allowing it to avoid the federal caps on H-2B workers.

 

Gasoline prices surge

ASPEN, Colo. – Gasoline prices reached $4.09 per gallon in Aspen by mid-May, while they were at $3.55 in Vail. Philip Verleger, a consulting economist based in Aspen, estimated that gas prices could reach $6 a gallon in Aspen this summer. Aspen is regularly 50 cents above the national average, he told The Aspen Times.

Verleger said he doubts that free buses and higher prices will limit automobile traffic into Aspen, where congestion at the town’s entrance results in something that is the opposite of rush hour both morning and evening.

 

Are snow-melt systems green?

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Crested Butte has joined the Mayors’ Agreement on Climate Change. It has vowed to pursue compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

But what does that mean in very practical terms of, for example, snow-melt systems? Despite gains in wind and other forms of alternative energy, most electricity today is produced by burning of coal, a major source of carbon dioxide. Because of increasing demand for electricity, many observers expect burning of coal to actually increase.

Confronted with this situation, the town council continues to struggle toward consensus. A moratorium on new snowmelt systems has been extended through summer. Exempted are public sidewalks.

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