Driving your dollars: 221 publicly owned cars on streetsPublished 12:27am Sunday, July 15, 2012
• Interim Recreation Department Director Salina Edwards (2006 Mercury Mountaineer) and Assistant Interim Director Wilbert Whittley (2007 Ford F-150).Mayor
• Fire Chief Oliver Stewart (2011 Ford Crown Victoria); Fire Marshal Aaron Wesley (2002 Ford Crown Victoria); and Training Officer Darryl Smith (1999 Ford Crown Victoria.)
Typically a training officer would not take his or her vehicle home, but Stewart said the training officer’s vehicle’s battery dies if it stays parked. So to keep from having to jump off the car or frequently buy new batteries, Stewart said he lets the training officer take the car home because the alternator keeps the battery charged. Stewart said the fire department also has a truck that has similar problems and has to be jump-started.
In the county, take-home vehicles are issued to:
• Coroner James Lee (2002 Dodge 2500 3/4 ton cargo van)
• Emergency Management Director Stan Owens (2002 Chevrolet Suburban)
• Maintenance department workers Johnny Williams (2012 Chevrolet Silverado) and Don Bates (1996 Crown Victoria)
• Two on-call road department employees (2000 Ford F250s)
• Sheriff Mayfield (2011 Dodge Charger); 27 ACSO employees including Majs. Charles Harrigill, Billy Neely, David Lindsey, Charlie Sims, Rickey Stevens, Investigators Robert Brown, James Blackwell, Jerry Brown, John Manley, Delayne Bush, PIO Emily Ham and 16 deputies.
• Three Metro Narcotics agents
Administering the fleets
Alderman Dillard and Alderman Rickey Gray said they want to know more about the city’s fleet of vehicles — soon.
“We have got to find a way in our new accounting system to be able to account for all these vehicles and pull up this information,” Dillard said. “We’ve got to have a way to monitor these vehicles.”
The city purchased, a year ago, a new accounting software aimed at cleaning up some of its accounting practices.
Some of the information provided by the city clerk’s office was outdated or inaccurate, according to the department heads.
A 1991 Ford truck and a 1994 Yamaha golf cart listed in the Natchez Visitor Reception Center inventory are vehicles Tourism Director Connie Taunton said she has not seen in years.
When cross-checked with information from the Natchez Police Department, the city’s inventory did not match several year models or assignments for vehicles.
Dillard said the extent of the city’s vehicle fleet and the fact the city does not have a viable and accurate way of accounting for the vehicles clearly warrants the aldermen looking into the issue. Dillard said he believes emergency responders and perhaps a public works supervisor should take their vehicles home.
“But beyond that, I think these vehicles should probably be parked,” he said. “They should be considered equipment, not a personal conveyance.”
Gray said he too was most concerned about monitoring the vehicles that are taken home each evening.
“The vehicles that are used every day (during business hours), the employees need those, but we need to be able to check on the ones that go home.”
Dillard suggested the city put GPS systems in the cars that go home with employees to make sure the vehicles are only used for city business.
Brown said that would be a costly endeavor but agreed that the city needs some type of accountability for the vehicles.
Brown is assigned a 2008 Mercury Marquis but said he has yet to use the vehicle and is considering upgrading it.
“I am still using my personal vehicle right now,” he said.
Brown said the city would definitely be looking into the size and age of the city’s fleet.
“It’s a revelation,” he said. “So we’ve got to check it out. I’m as concerned about the number of vehicles as I am about the age of the vehicles. We’ve got to have better equipment so we can reduce the cost of maintenance.”
Of the total number of publicly owned city vehicles, 17 of them are new, 2011 or 2012 models.
Nine of those vehicles are models dating to 1995 or earlier.
Adams County Administrator Murray said the county keeps track of all its vehicles in its internal inventory system, including the sheriff’s office’s vehicles.
If the supervisors wanted to know exactly how many vehicles the county owns, they could request a printout from the inventory system, Murray said.
Whenever the county is looking to replace a vehicle they first check to see if an acceptable replacement can be found from the inventory the sheriff’s office is replacing.
The road department has also eliminated some of the take-home vehicles in recent months, and those who do take the vehicles home are subject to being on-call, Murray said.
The county is also in the process of eliminating one of the maintenance department’s vehicles.
Grennell said he has never personally asked to see a list of vehicle inventory, but he said he believes the county has a sufficient number of work vehicles without being top-heavy.
Supervisor Calvin Butler said he believes the only vehicles that should be driven home are those that are deemed absolutely necessary because of liability reasons.
“I think the more we can limit the vehicles home, the better it is,” he said. “Anytime you have a vehicle riding around after work hours, that becomes a liability on the city or the county, so I think it needs to be limited.”
The employees who are assigned take-home units are subject to a “fringe benefit” tax that is based on the assessed value of the vehicle and how often they use it, Murray said.
Under the fringe benefit law, law enforcement vehicles are exempt.