City to park cars for savings

Members of the FAIR Committee discussed a new policy, “Use of City-Owned Vehicles”, drafted by Interim City Manager Jerry Moss.

According to Moss, there are currently 63 city-owned vehicles that are being driven to and from home by city employees for a total of 159,900.68 miles per year. At a cost of $.485 per mile, this amounts to $77,551.83, a figure that includes fuel, tires, general maintenence, and depreciation.

The new policy, which would take effect May 1, would require that city vehicles be parked at city facilities unless the city workers to which they are assigned are employed in one of the following positions:

* City Manager
* Assistant City Manager
* Department Head (required to reside within Vance County)
* Wastewater Mechanic and Instrumentation Technician
* Regional Water Mechanic
* K-9 Police Officer
* Police Officer who resides within the Henderson city limits (vehicles should be marked and highly visible to the public)
* Assistant Fire Chief
* Police Captain
* Anyone who currently drives a car home and resides in the city

The last item was added as an incentive for city employees to live within the city at the suggestion of FAIR Committee Chair Lynn Harper.

The number of take-home cars will be reduced from the current number of 63 to 28. Moss estimates the savings to be $57,057.34 in total, with $26,144 of that figure in fuel savings alone.

Other features of the policy included a clause to limit vehicle use to the performance of assigned city duties and a rule against the transport of non-city personnel.

In committee, Henderson City Council member Elissa Yount praised Moss on the work that was done to find the information that went into generating the policy. FAIR Committee member Bobby Gupton also praised it as very thorough.

Henderson City Council member Mary Emma Evans, who chairs the Human Resources Committee commented that the policy would require some “drastic changes”.

Harper replied that Evans had made a very good point. She stated that the committee would not consider the policy if it were not trying to get the fund balance up. She also stated that employees have until May 1 so they have time to make arrangements.

Yount asked what the policy has been regarding who gets a take-home car.

Moss replied that it has been done in a manner that no one has looked at. He stated that he believed that the original intent was to provide a vehicle with which employees might respond to calls for assistance. He later clarified that mostly supervisory personnel get take-home cars.

FAIR Committee member Ranger Wilkerson stated that “it just got out of hand”.

Moss stated that take-home cars became more common when Police Chief Glen Allen came to Henderson in 1998. He also stated that the policy he authored was not entered into blindly, but done after looking at what other cities do.

Harper commented that other cities are more stringent than what Moss’s policy outlines.

Evans stated: “We don’t want to turn cold on our employees. It seems like we’re doing things to lower their morale.” She told the committee that thinking was necessary before making strong decisions.

Harper replied that Moss had thought about the police, but told Evans that the committee “should take your message of caution to heart”.

Moss commented that ten years ago, there were only 15 take-home cars in the Henderson fleet.

Henderson City Council member Lonnie Davis asked if the policy is absolute, or if a vehicle is negotiable.

Moss replied that none of the positions are in the category of being able to negotiate an automobile as part of their compensation package.

Moss went on to recommend to the committee that the policy be enacted. He advised the committee that the blessing of the city council was not necessary.

Harper then turned the discussion to the matter of marking cars, stating to the committee that all cars should be marked that are being taken home for the night. She used the specific example of placing the city seal on the city manager’s car with the words “City Manager” written under it.

Wilkerson disagreed, stating that it is going too far to mark all of the cars. He told the committee he did not see the point.

Davis commented that when people see a detective car coming, they known it means something “heavy” is going on.

Wilkerson commented that detective cars need to stay as they are.

Henderson Police Chief Glen Allen commented that there is a need for unmarked vehicles in law enforcement.

Gupton asked Moss to research how many unmarked cars are owned by Henderson. He stated that he did not see a reason not to mark the other cars.

Turning to an earlier decision to mark the cars of patrol lieutenants, it was noted that $1,600 would have to be found to mark those vehicles.

Later, in conversation with Moss and Harper, Moss noted to Home in Henderson that those who would continue to take their cars home have a reason to do so. Harper stated that people with responsibities outside of the normal workday or live in the city would continue to take a car home.

It was noted by Home in Henderson that some would perceive the action of the committee and the City Manager as a pay cut. Harper stated that there is a scheduled raise for the last pay period in June.

Harper stated that the policy would not be popular. She said that Moss was not concerned about that, but rather concerned about the financial health of the city, a sentiment that Moss affirmed.

Moss stated that a lot of thought and time was spent to treat people as fairly as possible. He also stated that a police presence in Henderson neighborhoods was desired, and that he wanted police to be visible and for people to see a police presence in their neighborhoods, referring to the decision to allow police officers who reside within the city limits retain their take-home vehicles.

Moss told Home in Henderson that going from 15 to 63 take-home cars indicated a change of assignment of cars that should not have been. He said that the police used to motor pool. He speculated that the original thought behind the take-home cars was to give a police presence in Henderson neighbhorhoods, but that it has gotten out of hand since 1998.

Moss also expressed concern about the transporting of children in city cars. He told us that it opens the city up to liability issues that are “endless”.