The price at the pump these days isn't hitting the wallets of only Columbia County residents.
It's now starting to take its toll on the county's government.
In a Management and Financial Services Committee meeting Monday, board members agreed to forward on a fuel reduction plan that calls for ways to reduce fuel usage in county departments and the future purchasing of more fuel-efficient vehicles.
"We're working on doing that, trying to cut back,'' Columbia County Commission member Diane Ford said.
According to a county document reviewed by the commission at the meeting, fuel costs in the past fiscal year for the county averaged $1.65 per gallon, costing a total of $762,808 for 462,341 gallons used. This fiscal year, the cost is estimated to range from about $1.156 million to $1.618 million. Monthly fuel costs could range from a low of $96,000 to a high of $135,000, the report states.
According to the document, recommendations for cutting back on fuel usage will be directed to a committee for review because some of the recommendations could involve changes in services to residents.
Clayton Galloway, of the county's fleet services division, said he doesn't know of any specific recommendations made by departments so far. He said, however, that the goal of fuel conservation probably would reduce any "nonessential'' traveling.
"That can be anything from, say, the fire department just saying we normally take the truck down here and rinse it off at the gas station while we're getting fuel, but we're not going to do that today,'' he said. "We're not going to pull it out and run it for 45 minutes.''
Galloway said a recommendation he's been giving out is to reduce idling time, especially on trucks.
"The short term, probably the biggest thing we're going to see is conservation,'' Galloway said. "And then in the long term it's going to be focused on what we purchase in the future to be as fuel efficient as is possible.''
Galloway said the county has set a 25 percent fuel-reduction goal for each department.
"I don't know that we'll achieve that immediately. I think there are some really good long-term things that are being looked at, including the use of newer technology in our purchasing,'' he said. ''I plan to spend about a month in that to become the chief resident electric car specialist in Columbia County because we're going to have to do something.''
The issue of gasoline costs also is having an effect on the county government concerning mileage reimbursements. Recently, the Internal Revenue Service increased its mileage reimbursement to 48.5 cents per mile, a standard the county has followed in the past. The commission recently was told that to increase the county's reimbursement, which is at 40.5 cents per mile, would cost the county about $52,000 for the remainder of the year.
The commission agreed to go along with the new rate through December, but said it would review it at that time.
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