Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Riverwest Neighborhood Network News' scoop on DPW

The Riverwest Neighborhood News Network scooped the world on the Department of Public Works' 33% absence rate for some key personnel.

"The industry benchmark would be about half of that," Budget Director Mark Nicolini said.

RNNN links to the video of the city budget hearing where the issue was discussed.

It's painful to watch if you pay property taxes, or even want your recycling picked up when it is supposed to be.

As Ald. Mike D'Amato put it, "the people only got a third of the service they bought."

"What's worse," D'Amato said, "paying twice for a service you get or paying once for a service you don't get?"

Wow. Where do we go for our DPW property tax refunds?

The 33% absence rate includes scheduled vacations, but there is indeed a problem: sick leave useage increased 3% since 1999, DPW Commissioner Jeff Mantes told the Common Council's Finance and Personnel Committee, "which does create some issues with respect to being able to fill particular jobs on a given day."

Mantes said there are as many three-day absences as single-day absences. "We've got many absences occurring in conjunction with holidays or weekends and that alone would lead us to believe there is probably some abuse of certainly a valid benefit," he said.

"Either we've got a very unhealthy work force or there's some abuse taking place," he said.

"How big a problem is it?" Ald. Michael Murphy asked.

The main issue with driver workers, he said.
That 3% sick leave increase equates to 12 worker absences every day.

"We've been running at the point this past year of not being able to fill all the jobs that are necessary," Mantes replied.

As the RNNN reports, recycling pick-ups and street sweeping are the first to get dumped when the workers don't show up.

"We look at which jobs can we, maybe, knock off on a given day that aren't necessarily as visible or critical," Mantes said.

The absence problem was so bad in the summer of 2006 that DPW had to "knock off" some work about 66% of the days, Mantes said.

Mantes promised that a revised sick leave policy would take effect in 2008, a mere nine years after sick leave use began to climb.

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