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Hall leaders to review use of county-owned vehicles
Commissioners ponder policy on take-home cars, gas cards used by employees
Cars driven by Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputies are parked behind station 1 on Athens Highway. Deputies who live out of the county park their patrol cars at the station nearest the county line. - photo by Tom Reed

In a continuing effort to cut local government costs, the Hall County Board of Commissioners will review county vehicle use in the coming days.

Commissioners Scott Gibbs and Craig Lutz have asked county staff to put together a list of county employees with access to gasoline cards and those who can take home county-owned vehicles.

The lists will be discussed at the commission's work session Tuesday.

Specifically, Gibbs said he wants to look at employees who drive a county-owned vehicle to their homes outside of Hall.

"If you're not on official county business, Hall County vehicles do not need to leave the county," Gibbs said. "With gas at $3.75 a gallon, it all adds up."

The Hall County Sheriff's Office mandated this week that take-home vehicles were to be limited to employees who live in Hall. The mandate came with a few exceptions, said Col. Jeff Strickland, that allow deputies with police dogs to take their vehicles home even if they live out of the county.

But the mandate means about 55 deputies are leaving their vehicles at the nearest Hall County fire station to their homes, Strickland said, though some deputies are leaving their cars at fellow deputies' homes near the county line.

Strickland said the Sheriff's Office will review the department's cost savings after a month.

Gibbs said the county takes on more liability when vehicles leave the county for the simple fact that the vehicle is "on the road more."

"I just don't think it's right to expose the taxpayers to the liability of it leaving the county," Gibbs said. "I don't care about the mileage, but it needs to be in the county, not out of the county."

Other than the Sheriff's Office, about 30 Hall employees live outside the county and are allowed to take work vehicles home, said Tim Sims, interim finance director for the county.

Most, if not all, of those employees are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Sims said.

Lutz said he wants to learn more about the county's rules for gas card use and for take-home vehicles in general. He said he plans to examine each department's ability to take vehicles home.

"That's the kind of decision we need to make: Do we need to have a company car or do we need to be reimbursing for mileage?" Lutz said.

Sims said gas cards have built-in limits that regulate how much gas an employee can buy in a day and the time of day the employee can buy gas. The limits vary, depending on the duties of the employee that uses the card.

Each month, the finance department sends the bill for each department's gas use to the department head for review, Sims said.

The bills also detail anytime an employee tried to make an unauthorized purchase, Sims said.

But Lutz and Gibbs said they just want to make sure the county is operating in the most economical manner.

"We do have some great folks," Gibbs said. "I just want to make sure there's some checks and balances on that."