More than affecting Americans’ errand routines, the rising gas prices also have cities and counties — their school systems, hospitals, public works and even their sheriff patrols — looking for ways to operate more efficiently as fuel costs burn up increasingly large portions of their budgets.
“It’s putting a crunch on us,” said Trigg County Sheriff Randy Clark. “We operate pretty tight as it is.”
It’s not, however, affecting daily operations for the Sheriff Department.
“It can’t,” Clark said. “We don’t have any option.”
Though Clark said he and the rest of his department don’t make regular patrols, they still burn a lot of gas responding to accidents or transporting prisoners. In fact, Clark said Sheriff vehicles recently made round trips to Christian, Todd, Calloway and Marshall Counties — all in the same day.
Though contracting with a fuel provider six months ago has helped lessen the pain for the Sheriff Department, increased fuel costs have put new equipment and purchases — like digital cameras or updated computer software — “on hold.”
Clark has also tried to limit overtime.
“But with a five-man department, that’s hard to do, too,” he said.
Clark, who serves on the Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association’s Board of Directors, said the group discussed raising certain fees to help off-set fuel costs at a meeting last week. Such a change would have to come from a state legislative act, however.
“Something has got to give,” Clark said.
City Administrator and Chief of Police Hollis Alexander said neither the city nor its police department is facing any cuts “in the immediate future.”
The city is just beginning its new fiscal year, and while Alexander said they did budget for higher gas prices, they “didn’t foresee it getting near the $3 mark” at the time.
“We’re staying on top of it,” Alexander said, adding that Cadiz may have to amend its operating budget to account for higher fuel costs.
Like Sheriff Clark, Alexander said the fuel costs can’t affect police services.
“You have got to go, no matter where [you’re needed],” he said.
Like the Sheriff and police cars, there is another fleet of vehicles that simply cannot be stopped from making their rounds.
This fleet will travel more than 300,000 miles in the next ten months, with an average fuel efficiency of anywhere between six and ten miles per gallon.
Mark Harris, transportation director for the Trigg County School System, said that’s actually pretty good — for a school bus, which is forever stop-n’-going as it picks-up or drops-off its 60 passengers.
Harris said his department has budgeted about $70,000 for this year’s fuel, about a $5,000 increase.
“Something else may suffer — hopefully not,” he said.
For the rest of this story, please see this week's edition of The Cadiz Record.