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Plan to cut take-home vehicles could save Hagerstown $11,000 a year

August 06, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The City of Hagerstown could save about $11,000 a year by reducing the number of city-owned vehicles that municipal employees are permitted to drive to and from work, City Finance Director Alfred Martin said.

During a City Council work session Tuesday, Martin and other members of the city staff said the money would be saved by cutting 13 of the 48 vehicles from the city's take-home vehicle program.

According to the plan, which was drafted recently by nine city employees at the request of the council, eight vehicles would be cut from the utilities department, three from the public works department and one each from the police and parks departments.

Utilities Director Mike Spiker said that by cutting more vehicles, employees who used to respond directly to an emergency would be forced to drive to work, pick up a vehicle and then drive to the scene. As a result, response times would increase. That extra 15-minute delay, he said, could result in the loss of thousands of gallons of water if a water main broke.

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The council began examining the take-home vehicle policy in May, when Councilwoman Kelly Cromer questioned whether the policy was costing the city too much money in the wake of rising gas prices.

On Tuesday, Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he doubted whether the $11,000 in savings was worth the time that the city staff had spent on the issue. The marginal savings, Metzner said, wouldn't be worth sacrificing customer service.

The council agreed to revisit the issue in three months. In the meantime, employees who drive city-owned vehicles will be required to keep a log of their daily mileage and the number of times they are called out on emergencies.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh warned the employees to refrain from driving the vehicles for personal use.

"I want accountability from this day forward," she said.

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