Forestry worker complains of ash borer, dead trees

A forestry inspector says he and his crew are overworked by the demand to clear dead and fallen trees, but his boss argues everything is just fine.

Crews clear 2 trees Tuesday that closed roads in Glebe, Centretown areas

This tree, which fell on Somerset Street West Tuesday morning, was the top priority for forestry workers who claim they can't keep up with demand across Ottawa.

Workers who clear dead and fallen trees are overworked and that's causing a rift between one veteran inspector and his boss at the City of Ottawa.

Municipal forestry inspector Roger Reynolds said workers can barely keep up with the sheer volume of calls, with some jobs taking five weeks to address.

On Tuesday morning alone, workers removed a tree on Glebe Avenue between Bank and Lyon streets and another on Somerset Street West between Cartier and MacDonald streets.

The increase in toppled trees stems from a combination of older trees falling and ash trees dying from emerald ash borer, he added.

"There's about eight inspectors and every one of us is about 120 calls behind, and we can't keep up. We just can't," said Reynolds, a self-proclaimed tree-lover.

The inspector said the backlog will continue without increased manpower, but his boss has a different take.

Workload 'reasonable,' city argues

In a written statement to CBC News, the city's forestry manager, David Barkley, said the department is "experiencing normal levels of demand and has the appropriate staff and resources needed to fulfill its mandate."

Steve Kanellakos, deputy city manager of operations, said an inspector would have to complete eight calls a day over three weeks to complete 120 calls. That would be a "reasonable" workload, according to an email statement.

"Occasionally workloads will spike due to unforeseen weather conditions and we re-allocate resources to deal with those spikes," Kanellakos said.

"However, it would not be financially responsible to our taxpayers to staff year round for occasional peak demand."

Increasing non-emergency calls, inspector says

Reynolds, who said he has worked in forestry for 38 years, has seen the queue of calls pile up in recent years. The demand is also compounded by a push to finish projects where roads are closed and more people are affected.

"We don't get to a call for say, four to five weeks," Reynolds said.

"I can't put a call today at the head of the line if it's not an emergency, so I'm working on last month's calls trying to catch up."

Reynolds also believes special projects, such as tree planting in the spring and fall, are being neglected due to the increase in workload.