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Metra Overtime Soars To $119 Million From 2013 To 2017; One Mechanic Earned $366,000

CBS (CHICAGO) - A Metra track inspector and two mechanics have been paid a total of $1.2 million in overtime in the past five years.

That payout, one lawmaker tells 2 Investigator Brad Edward, is out of control.

"There's excessive overtime being paid," says State Rep. David Olsen (R-Downers Grove). "That creates mistrust from taxpayers."

In all, Metra's overtime costs soared above $119 million from 2013 to 2017, according to interviews and records. 2 Investigators counted 351 employees who earned at least $100,000 in that span. Topping the list is a mechanic who earned more than $366,000 in overtime.

"I think that … it's really outrageous," Olsen says. "Those are staggering numbers."

Metra denied our request to interview CEO James Derwinski.

Instead, the agency sent a five-page statement that said, in part, "Our fleet is aging, and cars and locomotives require considerable maintenance… It is usually more cost-efficient to use overtime than it would be to hire, train and pay fringe benefits for new employees."

Metra has increased fares four consecutive years, in part, to help cover rising labor and overtime costs. Monthly ticket holders have seen fares increase by as much as 48 percent, depending on the line.

Last year, Metra made an effort to save on overtime, when it paid over $500,000 for a shooting range.

The agency estimated it would save $120,000 annually on police overtime.

A Metra spokesman tells 2 Investigators the purchase has helped reduced police overtime but the agency was unable to provide any documentation to back up that assertion.

"If we are claiming savings at any level of government, it's a responsibility of government also to have the documentation to back that up," Olsen says, adding he believes Metra's needs should be a legislative priority.

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