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Franklin owns more vehicles, spends less in fuel

Published 10:32am Wednesday, August 22, 2012

FRANKLIN—Franklin owns twice as many vehicles as Southampton or Isle of Wight County, yet spent nearly $30,000 less in fuel and supplies for 2011-2012, according to municipal records.

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Franklin spent roughly $254,193 on gas and supplies, but spent $119,000 on repairs compared to Southampton, which spent $280,726 on gas and supplies and $105,980 on repairs. Isle of Wight spent about $383,000 on fuel and repairs.

Franklin is 8 square miles in size. Southampton County covers 599 square miles, while IOW consists of 315 square miles.

Franklin

Of the 137 vehicles, the city allows 36 to be taken home by employees, said City Manager Randy Martin. Police take 28 vehicles home, the fire department takes two, and public works and the power and light department take three each.

Martin said the city allows employees to take cars home if the employee lives within a 20-mile radius of the city. He said certain department heads, like the city manager, are required to live in Franklin.

“Everywhere I’ve worked, we’ve had a limit,” Martin said. “You have to make judgments of where you’re hiring and the housing availability.”

Martin says the take-home policy helps get the most qualified employees.

“I don’t know the criteria that went into that decision, but it seems that it’s working,” he said. We’ve kept our positions filled.”

Councilman Don Blythe disagrees with the 20-mile radius rule, especially within the police department.

“We’re putting more wear and tear on our cruisers going home every night than they do patrolling,” Blythe said. “I don’t think it’s right for taxpayers to have the extra expense.”

He would not oppose a 10-mile radius.

Martin noted that all local municipalities allow officers to drive cruisers home.

“The biggest consideration is that all the competition is doing it,” he said. “I’m not aware of any municipal police force that doesn’t have a take-home vehicle policy with some limits.”

Blythe said the $254,000 spent on fuel was too much.

“Isle of Wight and Southampton are big counties,” Blythe said. “Franklin is eight or nine miles and we spent that much money on fuel.”

Southampton County

Of the 73 vehicles, Southampton allows 40 to be taken home by employees. Thirty-four belong to the sheriff’s office. Six additional vehicles, including a 2000 Ford Expedition that County Administrator Mike Johnson drives, can be driven home. All the take-home vehicles are used for on-call responsibilities, he said.

Maj. Gene Drewery said deputies with take-home vehicles are required to live within the jurisdiction, which includes Franklin.

Franklin District Supervisor Barry Porter wouldn’t speak about the sheriff’s office because “they know what’s best for their office and the sheriff is responsible for that and answers to the people.” Porter has no problem with allowing employees to take home vehicles for on-call purposes.

“I don’t have a problem with people on-call having vehicles because they get called at all hours of the night,” he said.

He said he doesn’t believe reversing the policy would lead to a big savings because what would be saved in fuel and wear and tear could be added in overtime if an employee has to drive to the office, get a vehicle, and drive to a worksite and back.

Newsoms District Supervisor Glenn Updike disagrees. While he doesn’t think employees should be forced to live in the county, he doesn’t want to pay for their trips to and from work.

“There aren’t that many emergencies that come up,” Updike said. “Maybe one a month. We should let them use their own vehicle and then reimburse them.”

Isle of Wight County

Isle of Wight tracks only 70 vehicles through its general services department, said county spokesman Don Robertson. He couldn’t provide records of a department-by-department breakdown of vehicles used and didn’t return a call when asked about the number of take-home vehicles.

The sheriff’s office uses 45 vehicles; all but three are taken home by deputies, said Lt. James Pope. He said two of the three that aren’t taken home are driven by officers who live in the Virginia Beach area.

He said the department is working on a take-home vehicle policy.

“We’re looking at specialized units for take-home as well as take-home vehicles for officers who live in the county,” Pope said. “We might go to a mileage radius.”

Pope said 98 percent of the take-home are driven by officers who live in Isle of Wight or bordering municipalities.

Carrsville District Supervisor Rex Alphin said he trusts Sheriff Mark Marshall to run the office efficiently.

“If it has to do with public safety I think it’s a good idea,” Alphin said.

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