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Cromer wants to cut number of Hagerstown city vehicles being driven home

May 19, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - At a time when fuel prices are reaching record highs, Hagerstown Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer wants to save taxpayers a considerable amount of money by cutting back on a long-running program.

Cromer said she intends to try to limit the number of city-owned vehicles that municipal employees are allowed to drive home.

Of the 48 vehicles that city employees currently drive home, only 13 remain in the city, city documents show. The other vehicles are driven to other parts of Washington County or out of the state.

"The majority of the (take-home vehicles) are gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs," Cromer said. "It's a monumental waste of money ... There are way too many take-home vehicles."

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City documents show that 28 SUVs, pickups or vans are driven home by employees of the Public Works, Parks, Fire, Sewer, Water and Light departments. Members of the Hagerstown Police Department take home the most vehicles of any department in the city, but of those 19 vehicles, a majority are Ford Crown Victorias, documents show.

In February, The Herald-Mail filed a public information request seeking the cost the city incurred to provide employees with vehicles for fiscal year 2006-07 and to date for fiscal year 2007-08. The city responded almost a month later, saying, "There is no document that satisfies your request."

A request for information about how much money was budgeted in fiscal year 2006-07 and fiscal year 2007-08 for the take-home vehicle program brought the same written response: "There is no document that satisfies your request."

During a City Council work session earlier this week, Cromer asked the city staff to give her the addresses of all the employees who take home vehicles so she could track the mileage to get a better idea of how much the city is spending on gas.

Cromer also proposed taking away city-owned vehicles from employees who live outside the city.

"I'm going to keep pursuing this," she said.

Cromer said she favors continuing the practice of providing take-home vehicles for employees who live inside the city because most of those vehicles are police cruisers and their presence helps deter crime in neighborhoods.

Documents show that eight police officers take home city-owned vehicles to Hagerstown addresses.

In addition to taxpayers footing the bill for gas, they have to pay for wear and tear on the vehicles, Cromer said. She also is concerned that the city could be held liable if a city employee gets in an accident while driving one of the vehicles.

"I'm looking into that," she said.

Cromer said city officials have told her the vehicles are given to city employees who are on call and need the vehicles to drive directly to the scene of an emergency.

"Emergencies don't happen every day," Cromer said. "It would make more sense to me to pay them mileage (to drive their personal vehicle) to the shop, where they could pick up a (city-owned) vehicle and drive to the site ... There's no reason to have take-home vehicles for the small amount of calls they get."

Cromer said take-home vehicles also should be taken away from supervisors.

"They get high salaries and can afford their own vehicles," Cromer said. "You have wants and you have needs. That's not a need. It's a want."

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the City Council plans to discuss the take-home vehicle policy during a work session next month.

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