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County cuts back on its take-home auto fleet

By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County is tightening up rules on the use of its fleet of 153 vehicles now being driven home at night. New policy developed by the County Executive Office includes reduction in the number of SUVs now being used as take-home vehicles, attaching prominent county markings and buying more fuel-efficient autos. Day use will also be limited, with a minimum of about 500 to 600 miles driven a month established before a vehicle can be assigned to an employee. The Board of Supervisors agreed to staff’s fleet-use recommendations at Tuesday’s meeting. Four of the five – Robert Weygandt, Kirk Uhler, Jim Holmes and Rocky Rockholm – drive county vehicles home at night. Three of the five – Weygandt, Holmes and Rockholm – drive SUVs supplied by the county. The CEO’s office was directed to come back to the board at a future meeting with amendments to the county code to reflect changes in policy that are expected to save the county $443,000 next year through more prudent vehicle use. CEO Tom Miller said the annual savings would be on top of $200,000 already shaved from the budget late last year during a previous round of cuts. While supervisors voted without discussion to move forward on the policy amendments to the county code, Miller defended the use of take-home vehicles by board members. The CEO said that with supervisors being called out day or night on weekdays and weekends, the public expects them to always be available. Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who drives her own Honda CRV, is the lone board member not driving a county-owned vehicle. Miller said that Montgomery’s predecessor, Bruce Kranz, logged 77,000 miles on county business during his lone term in office. It’s an example where use of a county-owned vehicle was economically preferable to claiming mileage, Miller said. At 50 cents a mile, it would add up to nearly $38,000, he said. Rockholm, who represents Roseville on the board, drives a Chevy Tahoe he said cost the county $43,000. Weygandt, who lives in rural Lincoln, drives a Jeep Grand Cherokee priced by the county at $27,000. Holmes, whose district takes in Auburn and Newcastle, drives a Jeep Cherokee that cost the county $25,000. Uhler, of Granite Bay, paid $21,600 for a used Acura TL S and was reimbursed by the county. Bekki Riggan, management analyst with the CEO’s office, presented an estimate that the cost of CEO’s office and Board of Supervisors vehicles would drop from a budgeted $128,168 next year to $86,570 – or 28 percent. The amount spent annually for all vehicles with the CEO’s Office and Board of Supervisors had risen from $57,575 in 2004-05 to a high of $134,435 in 2007-08. The county sheriff’s total expenses for vehicles had risen during the same time from $1.5 million to $2.61 million. For the county as a whole, vehicle costs rose from $3.34 million to $5.85 million. Riggan said the new rules were developed to provide more financially prudent policies in the face of the county’s current economic challenges. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.