ALBANY, Ga. -- The cost of keeping the city government's fleet of vehicles on the road during the next fiscal year will increase by nearly $2 million because of rising fuel costs, officials say.
On Tuesday, the Albany City Commission tentatively voted to award Jim Hinton Oil Company in Albany a $3.4 million contract for E-10 blended gasoline and two types of diesel fuel to keep the city's fleet of 894 vehicles rolling this fiscal year.
That figure is up from the $1.6 million the city spent this last calendar year on fuel for its vehicles, city officials say.
Stephen Collier, the city's director of Central Services -- the department that oversees city procurement and fuel and fleet maintenance -- said that officials hope the contract is a ceiling cost based on a discounted fuel price of around $3 per gallon.
"The price actually fluctuates based on OPIS -- the Oil Price Information Service -- which calculates the daily price of fuel," Collier said. "But Hinton was able to give us a discount even on that price."
Collier says that the increase is based exclusively on the rising cost of petroleum in world markets.
"The difference is price driven," Collier said. "Everybody knows the price of fuel has gone up the last few years and we're just feeling that."
The figure prompted renewed discussion by the city's elected officials of reviewing the city's take-home vehicle policy.
That discussion, led chiefly by Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell, centered on the distance certain city employees, such as police officers, should be allowed to drive to take their vehicles home.
The current city ordinance, according to city officials, limits the distance a city employee can commute from the government center to a 20-mile radius.
Postell said that was simply too far.
"People shouldn't be able to drive our cars to home in Americus or to Sylvester," Postell said.
When it was pointed out by an Albany Herald reporter after the meeting that Americus is, according to the shortest route as listed on Google maps, at least 37 miles away, Postell said his point was still valid.
"We need to try and save fuel and that means limiting where people take our vehicles," Postell said. "Twenty miles is too far."
Albany Mayor Willie Adams used the fuel discussion to reiterate his position that every city vehicle needs to have some sort of Global Positioning System, or GPS, device to monitor their whereabouts to ensure they aren't traveling when they aren't supposed to be.
"Nearly every corporation in the country has some kind of GPS or AVL (automatic vehicle location) device," Adams said. "We're a corporation and we need to keep track of our vehicles. That's something I'd like to see on all of our vehicles."
The city already has more than 250 AVL systems installed in public safety vehicles and can monitor their location, their speed and even idle time from remote terminals at the Law Enforcement Center and the fire department.
Collier also told the commission that, as part of the city's fleet maintenance, they monitor each vehicle's fuel consumption and miles-per-gallon as a possible indicator of a pending vehicle repair.
And many departments, including the fire department, are modifying their driving behaviors in an effort to reduce fuel consumption.
Ron Rowe, the deputy fire chief, said that firefighters, on certain calls, have changed their driving habits to help reduce the pain at the pump.
"The public generally thinks we go wide open on every call," Rowe said. "And we do, but for certain calls, like alarm calls, we'll send one unit out full speed, but the remaining units will drive normally until the first unit to arrive can determine if its a false alarm or something else than what was called in."