Increasing gas prices hurting police, public works

Garbage trucks have a 90 gallon gas tank and get approximately 3 miles to the gallon / Sarah Bleau

High gas prices may have people cutting back on driving, but it's not so easy for police, emergency medical services and trash vehicles to do the same.

Albany Public Works Director Phil Roberson says, "We purchased smaller vehicles, more fuel efficient vehicles, we've also monitored our schedule a little bit because there's only so much we can do within our structure that can change the basic service we deliver."

He also says to stay ahead of rising gas prices, Public Works equipped their vehicles with GPS to track routes and continue developing shorter routes that are still productive.

"Public Works uses about 40 percent of city's total fuel usage annual which is about 240,000 gallons a year so any increase in fuel affects us disproportionally," says Roberson.

The city of Albany fuels approximately 1,200 government vehicles overall, according to Fleet Management Superintendent Kenneth Johnson.

Dougherty County police have to fill the tanks of 42 vehicles, most of which run 24-7 patrolling the 300 square miles of their district.

"This is probably the single most difficult to accurately predict when you do budget planning because it's been all over the charts for years," says DCP Chief Don Cheek.

DCP says they are, just like everyone else, concerned about going over their budget because of the increasing gas prices.

"It's kind of a double edge sword: We can park the cars and become strictly reactive, in other words wait on you to call us and say my house has been burglarized," says Cheek. "Yeah, we'd probably save some gas doing that, but that doesn't provide the service that we need to continue to provide to the citizens of Dougherty County."

Both DCP and Albany Public Works say sky-high, unpredictable gas prices are not a new hurdle they have faced.

"We've had a lot of curveballs thrown at us over the years and we've always found a way to make it work and we will this time as well," says Roberson.

Johnson says the city currently pays about $3.15 for unleaded and $3.30 for diesel fuel. He says they pay an average of 30 cents less than the public because they don't pay state tax, pennies in federal taxes and receive a four cent tax credit for using ethanol through their gas provider.

"We've been doing this so many years that it's not really a shock," Johnson says. "Hopefully we don't see $5 per gallon because that's going to hurt a lot of people."

He says the city's fuel budget is approximately $1.4 million for all government vehicles.

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