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Smelly jobs suddenly a lot more attractive

Wanted: Laborer willing to work 10-hour days outdoors in the stench and dust of the Pinellas County landfill. That's year-round, so you'll really enjoy the summer months when the landfill is ripest.

Starting salary: $9.50 an hour, plus benefits.

Sound like the job for you? With the economy crashing and unemployment rising in the Tampa Bay area, 136 people, most out of work, answered yes last month and applied for three such jobs.

"At one point I actually had a line of people 10 feet out the door waiting to talk to me," said Scott Hanus, an operations manager for Veolia Environmental Services, which runs the landfill. "I actually had some people down on their knees begging me."

Hanus placed an ad in the St. Petersburg Times for the openings on Nov. 24. In rosier times, such an ad might attract 10 job seekers. Hanus said that with the overwhelming response, he stopped taking applications around noon the next day.

The ad was for spotters, who show customers where to dump their loads and make sure that prohibited stuff like batteries, oil and paints aren't going into the landfill.

Some who applied had college degrees, Hanus said, and many had recently been laid off or seen their companies shut down. The three people hired had a fair amount of experience working outdoors and solid customer skills, Hanus said. They started Dec. 8.

None of the four applicants who had begged on their knees for work because they could not pay the rent or feed their families was among them.

"It was pretty hard watching so many people hurting," Hanus said.

Kyle Martin, who lives in St. Petersburg with his fiancee, is one of the fortunate three. He lost his job as a cabinet shop manager about two months ago, when the company had to cut back.

He had been starting most days at a Hess station, where he'd buy the newspaper, scan the want ads and then go bang on doors.

The 23-year-old had no success. Facing the prospect of applying to fast-food joints, he jumped at the landfill job opening.

Martin said he loves his new line of work. There's lots of overtime to be had, he said, plus he gets to be outside.

"I thank God I've got a job, I got a house and a beautiful wife-to-be," Martin said.

Will Van Sant can be reached at vansant@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4166.

Smelly jobs suddenly a lot more attractive 12/17/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 6:35pm]
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