On-call City of Ottawa workers log thousands of kilometres — to scrape up roadkill
Employees racked up nearly 500,000 km driving city vehicles between home and work
On-call municipal workers are driving City of Ottawa vehicles home at night to towns as far away as Alcove, Que., and Renfrew, Ont., so that they'll be available to respond to such "emergencies" as collecting dead animals, trimming long grass and emptying overflowing trash bins, CBC News has learned.
Using gas paid for by taxpayers, more than 250 employees logged nearly half a million kilometres in one year commuting between work and home in city vehicles. That's enough mileage to circle the globe a dozen times.
It's a concern because obviously that has a huge cost to the taxpayer to cover the mileage.- Coun. Allan Hubley
"It's a concern because obviously that has a huge cost to the taxpayer to cover the mileage to and from those locations, the wear and tear on those vehicles," said Coun. Allan Hubley, chair of the city's audit committee.
As CBC News reported earlier this year, certain employees are allowed to drive work vehicles home so they can respond quickly to after-hours emergencies.
- EXCLUSIVE: City of Ottawa workers drive fleet vehicles home on taxpayers' dime
CBC News analyzed hundreds of pages of city records obtained under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The data shows more than 250 workers with nine different departments took fleet vehicles home between March 2015 and March 2016.
More than half of those workers were with the city's road services branch. One vehicle sat parked at a home in Renfrew, Ont., another in Plantagenet, Ont.
Roadkill collection tops after-hours calls
The documents show the most common after-hours job for staff with the city's road services branch is shovelling up dead animals, accounting for 580 of the 2,003 calls logged over the 12 months in question. Another 447 calls were to remove debris and litter from roadways, including branches, ladders and couches.
Hubley agreed some calls need to be answered immediately.
"The road kill calls can be little Suzy's beautiful kitten got run over. You don't want to leave that on the road," said Hubley. "That's going to be very traumatic for families in the area. So you need to go out there and get that. You're not going to leave it until rush hour the next morning."
However he questioned whether employees who live so far outside the city should be allowed to drive work trucks home, suggesting instead that supervisors be called in, or that the city require on-call workers to pick up municipal vehicles at a city yard.
Employees with the city's parks, buildings and grounds department appear to be some of the farthest-flung, driving vehicles home to such destinations as Alcove, Que., and Lefaivre, Ont.
In March the city treasurer told CBC the municipality can't discriminate against workers based on where they live. The policy dictates on-call employees must be able to respond to an emergency within an hour, wherever they happen to live.
City reviewing fleet policies
According to calculations derived from city estimates, on-call employees burned about $80,000 worth of gas driving fleet vehicles between their homes and job sites over the year in question. That figure does not include the cost of wear and tear or maintenance on the vehicles.
The city has said it's not a freebie for employees since they have to report their mileage for personal use as a taxable benefit.
The city said it's currently studying its fleet policies, including after-hours use.
The city is "reviewing what is deemed to be an emergency and whether some work can be assigned to regular crews during regular working hours," Kevin Wylie, the city's general manager of public works, told CBC News in a statement.
"For example, in some cases dead animals may be a risk to drivers who may swerve to avoid running them over. In other cases, the location of the animal may not pose a risk," he added.