There's some good news on the horizon for Hernando County's unemployed in the form of some jobs that are expected to be well-paid.
The bad part is that the jobs will materialize if and when the oil disaster in the gulf arrives on local shores.
Plant Performance Services, a Texas company hired by BP to oversee cleanup of damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster, is looking to train a temporary workforce of about 80 people to clean contaminated beaches, rocks and booms should the drifting oil foul the county's coast.
Workers, however, would come only from the ranks of Hernando residents who are now unemployed or whose jobs were lost as a result of the oil spill.
According to BP spokesman Phil Cochrane, the jobs will range from basic labor positions to equipment operation and supervisory positions. The pay will run from $18 an hour for laborers to $32 an hour for supervisors.
Cochrane said BP began training hazardous waste emergency response, or "hazwooper," workers weeks ago throughout Florida's coastal region. The workers are expected to be mobilized rapidly should conditions in the gulf change quickly.
In addition to Hernando, officials in Levy and Citrus counties have been notified of pending training operations.
"We want to be able to jump into action should the need arise," Cochrane said.
Cochrane said that while details of the mobilization plan are still being worked out, the application process could begin next week.
Plant Performance Services spokesman Ed Hoover said the workers will get between four and 40 hours of training, depending on their job description. Although workers will be compensated for training, they will not be paid unless they are deployed for actual cleanup duty.
Applicants are required to have a complete medical examination and drug test, and must have a clean criminal record.
Hoover said these crews will work on land only and will not handle oil-contaminated wildlife. Commercial fishermen may be used to set booms and perform other tasks on the water, but that would come under a different program.
In Hernando County, with a 13.8 percent unemployment rate, even temporary jobs are welcomed, said Dave Hamilton, a job counselor for Career Central. This employment resource center serving Pasco and Hernando counties is expected to supply the names of potential hires.
Hamilton said that his agency plans to review its lists of about 12,000 registered employment seekers and will target those with ready skills, including people with landscaping, construction or heavy equipment experience.
"It's going to take people with a lot of stamina to work long hours in hazmat suits in the sun," Hamilton said.
Judging the overall impact from the jobs will be difficult, he said.
"What the significance will be will be hard to say because there's no guarantee that those workers will be called up after the initial training takes place," Hamilton offered. "But if the oil continues to roll in for a long period of time, that might change."
Those interested in being considered for one of the temporary positions should send an e-mail inquiry to email@example.com.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.