The Hall County Board of Commissioners and various department heads gathered Wednesday morning to brainstorm ways to save money by cutting fuel costs as the upcoming year looms with a tight budget and high gas prices.
Many department chiefs shared the measures they currently are using to save fuel and discussed new ideas that could help save more.
Carol Miller of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office said she found that by applying for a deal through BP, patrol cars could get gas for cheaper than they currently do.
"It would give us 4.5 cents off per gallon," she said. "It’s just a matter of getting the fleet application out to BP."
Hall County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver, who planned the fuel summit, said he was pleased with the ideas people brought to the table.
"I thought it went great," Oliver said. "We’ve got some excellent people in the county."
The Hall County fire department and sheriff’s office reported that they use unnecessary fuel by dispatching emergency vehicles for false alarms. Often, certain smoke detectors and burglar alarms in county homes repeatedly go off for no reason. The commissioners discussed the option of charging a fine for repeat false alarms.
"Some of these people are negligent with their alarm systems," Oliver said. "After three or four, we should have an understanding it will be an extra charge."
Jeremy Perry, the Hall County budget officer, said no one expected gas prices to go up as fast as they have this year.
"If I’d have brought up to the budget $3.75 (per gallon) then, that would have been crazy at that period of time, back in December. Our average was in the $2.75 range in December and it shot up a dollar since then," Perry said.
Perry said gas usage and cost will be brought before the commission quarterly for review in case the budget needs to be amended if prices continue to rise.
"If they conserve, and if the price stays level, we should be fine with the budget," Perry said. "But I don’t know if we can do that or not in the first quarter."
Perry said if the price of gasoline goes up a penny, the county is looking at an estimated additional fuel cost of $7,450. An increase of a dollar adds $745,000 more to fuel the county’s vehicles. Those figures are based on the 745,000 gallons of gasoline Hall County consumed in fiscal year 2008.
While some of the ideas brought up at the fuel summit were simple and easily implemented, others would not be feasible right away.
Some department chiefs suggested looking into alternative sources of fuel like vegetable oil and methane from the landfill.
Others came up with ideas that were not directly related to fuel use, but would help offset rising costs, like using e-mail and telephone calls instead of traditional mail when possible, which would save money on postage.