The Ash Flat City Council said it needs time to consider the police chief's request to allow the city's two full-time officers to resume driving their police units to and from work each day.
"It's a tough decision but I'd rather (Alderman) Jeff (Johnson) ... be here," Alderman Marty Goodwin said.
"Yeah, let's think it over," Alderman Jerrell Lesley said.
During the June 16 city council meeting, Police Chief Mike Zeiger said from January through May 20 the 2001 Durango, used by reserve officers, has used 695 gallons of fuel; the 2003 Durango, used by Officer Bobby Woods, has used 518 gallons; the Ford Crown Victoria, used by Zeiger, has used 296 gallons.
Mayor Danny Traw issued a spending freeze for all city departments during the Feb. 19 city council meeting, just days after an EF4 tornado ripped through the area and severely damaged the city's sewer treatment plant and several homes in the area before making its way to Highland.
The chief said he understands the need for the city to pinch pennies due to the damage at the sewer treatment plant from the February tornado; however, he said the city has since hired an additional employee and installed a new heating and cooling system since that time.
Based on estimated miles per gallon ratings offered online by Dodge for the Durango, the units get 14 to 18 mpg. Zeiger estimated the city's units get 15 mpg due to the stop and go driving around town.
Based on that rate, Zeiger would use 1.5 to 2 gallons per day driving back and forth to his home which is located 15 miles from the police station, he said. At 1.5 gallons of gas at $4 per gallon, the cost would be $6 per day, roughly $140 a month. If Woods used the same amount of gas as Zeiger, although Woods lives closer to the city, it would total $280 a month.
Zeiger said although not allowing the officers to drive the vehicles home saves the city money, it isn't a substantial savings to the city due to the increase in response time from officers having to respond in their personal vehicles to the station and then to the scene of the emergency.
Woods and Zeiger, the city's only two full-time officers, are on call 20 hours a week in addition to their regularly worked hours. He said the two didn't think much about it when they had city vehicles readily available; that has now changed.
Zeiger said he spends $225 a month driving his personal vehicle to and from work. That amount totals more than his last raise, he said.
"We just want back what we once had," Zeiger said.
Having the cars parked at the station during off duty hours can be a liability to the city, Zeiger said. Criminals are able to see when officers are working and when they are not, he said. Without the vehicles there, criminals do not know.
The city does not have a particular line item in any budget for fuel; however, Traw said that will change when the council prepares the 2009 budget.
When the council reviewed the figures from Zeiger, they figured the amounts to be off slightly. Goodwin said Zeiger would use about three gallons per day driving back and forth while Woods would use two gallons. Based on those numbers the additional fuel would cost the city $5,200 a year based on $4 a gallon fuel.
Zeiger said the department does have some money from donations that he would be willing to transfer to the city's general fund to help offset the additional cost of fuel.
Traw said the city had discussed using that money to pay on the new car to help the city purchase another new car next year for the department.
No action was taken.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to pay four invoices to Danny's Auto for work the mayor had done on city vehicles. The total of Traw's bills is $1,080.02.
The invoices included one for $122.79 for work on a 1992 GMC chassis cab pickup for the sewer department, another for $433.77 for work to a 2003 Dodge Durango for the police department, another for $303.88 for work on a 1996 Chevrolet pickup in the water and sewer department and another for $219.58 for work on a 2006 Ford Crown Victoria for the police department.
The council unanimously voted to purchase 2,000 gallons of propane from Anderson's Propane through the prebuy program. Two companies submitted bids for propane to the city: Anderson's and Thayer Gas. Anderson's had the lowest bid at $1.99 per gallon.
"I just don't think you can go wrong prebuying," Alderman Carolyn Estes said.
Recorder/treasurer Charlotte Goodwin said the city used 2,706 gallons this year but didn't prebuy propane. Traw said the city used 900 gallons less than the year before. Traw said with the new heating and cooling system in the police and fire station building, he thinks the city will use even less propane in the future.
"You can't go wrong buying 2,000 gallons," Alderman Goodwin said.
Alderman Beth McEntire-Bess resigned from her position on the council. The Ward 3 alderman recently married and moved to Hardy with her husband.
"It has been a pleasure," she said. "I would move back to Ash Flat in a second."
After she read her letter of resignation, Bess left the meeting.
The city received a letter from Jerry Estes of Fulton County Water Association. Estes said the association will have to withhold the offer to the city to tie into the county's water system due to funding. He asked that the council keep the offer in mind if any changes occur in the future.
The council unanimously voted to approve a new section to the city's building permit procedures. The new section calls for building permit applicants to receive a letter of approval from the architectural control committee of an area before coming to the city requesting a permit.
Traw said he offered to have city employees dig a hole for the American Veterans Memorial Committee to erect a sign near Wal-Mart directing traffic to the memorial. The council also voted unanimously to waive the $75 sign permit fee for the committee.
The council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the city to destroy records from 1970 through 1983. The records will be burned in the presence of Goodwin and an alderman.
After a brief executive session to discuss employment, Traw reconvened the meeting and announced the council had made no decisions.