Interim City Manager Mark Wollenweber will be drafting a policy on the use of the public works garage to present to the city council next month.
The draft of a policy was requested by Mayor Ted Kedzierski this week after resident Jan Pemberton wrote a letter of complaint about the personal use of the garage by employees after normal business hours and on weekends.
Councilman Robert Barrette read Pemberton's letter aloud during Tuesday's meeting. Pemberton is a regular attendee of the council meetings but was not present Tuesday.
In her letter, she questioned why city employees are allowed to use the public works garage after hours and on weekends to work on their own cars. She also noted that none of the employees for the city live in Grosse Pointe Shores and therefore should not be entitled to use the garage for personal benefit because they have not contributed to paying for it.
Furthermore, her letter requested that if employees are allowed to continue using the garage for their personal needs, then residents should be allowed to do the same and be given equal access.
Wollenweber and Director of Public Works Brett Smith said they looked into the complaint after being alerted to Pemberton's letter. It is one employee who occassionally uses the garage to work on his racecar after working hours and on the weekends.
Wollenweber said the practice is pretty standard in any city and named past cities he's worked for where that was normal routine.
The employee is the city's mechanic and all of the tools he is using are his and he's using them on his own car, Smith explained. The mechanic has maintained his own stock of tools for years and allows Shores employees to use them as needed for city work, Smith said.
Additionally, he is not using the garage to run a side business or work on other people's cars, Smith said. He does perform some work on police vehicles once in a while for the city, Smith said.
Among some of the council's concerns were safety and liability. One council member wanted to know if there are always at least two people present in the event something happens so that the employee is not injured in the garage and unable to seek help on his own that another person seek help for him.
Another council member questioned whether the city takes on the liability for injuries the employee could sustain while performing personal work on city property, but Wollenweber said he contacted the city's insurance representative and was told the city is not at any more risk. Obviously if the employee were hurt while doing work on a personal car, he would not be eligible for workers compensation as a result, Wollenweber said.
Smith also detailed specific examples of when the employee was present doing personal work after hours or on the weekends when it benefitted the city. Two major examples he used were the house fire on Clairview Road in February 2011 and during a high-wind storm that took out many DTE lines later in 2011. Smith said he was on site for both of those and was able to call in extra police and fire help more immediately. He also jumped in a frontloader and began clearing debris and felled branches from the roadways immediately, Smith said.
While the employee is technically allowed to use three hours worth of comp time when he works after hours or is called in for emergency situations, he never does and he does not complete personal work during his work hours, Smith said.
According to a few people in attendance of the council meeting, this topic has surfaced in the past but it's never been determined a problem. Kedzierski said he would just like to have a policy in place to address it.
Kedzierski asked Wollenweber to draft a policy for the council and bring it back for their review during next month's meeting.