County considers shorter work, school weeks to save gas

Published 4:20 pm Thursday, June 5, 2008

In an attempt to save on fuel, Polk County commissioners plan to research the possibility of four-day work weeks and four-day school weeks, although neither&bsp; option seems feasible in the immediate future.

Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson said that he would like to see four-day school weeks because of how much it costs for diesel fuel to run buses daily, but that is not a local decision and would have to be made by the state.

Regarding four-day work weeks for county employees, commissioner Tom Pack requested that Whitson look into the plans of counties and towns in the state that are proposing four-day work weeks to see what such a move would entail.

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Whitson said yesterday that a four-day work week likely would not help Polk County because it would apply to only about half the county departments. Offices such as the sheriff&squo;s office, communications, emergency medical services and possibly transportation and social services, could not operate only four days, and most of those are the heavy fuel users in the county, Whitson said.

To gain some immediate savings in the budget, commissioners decided Monday to hold off on previously proposed renovations to Stearns Gym, estimated at $112,438. County officials said they would not go forward with the project because of unknown fuel costs in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The renovations to Stearns Gym, which include replacement of windows and doors, are still on the county&squo;s capital projects list, but may wait until next year before construction begins.

Commissioners have also discussed holding off on moving offices out of the Jervey Palmer building in an effort to save money for possible fuel overages next year. The county has set up a fuel contingency line item for fiscal year 2008-2009, which at this point has over $80,000.

During the county&squo;s meeting Monday, commissioners stated their concerns over increased fuel consumption by the sheriff&squo;s office.

Whitson reported that the sheriff&squo;s office between May 1 and May 25 has increased its fuel consumption by almost 15 gallons per day. Commissioners Ted Owens and Pack said that county fuel usage should be going down in an effort to conserve due to increased prices.

Commissioners last month also expressed concern that the fuel consumption in the sheriff&squo;s office has increased about 1,000 gallons per month since sheriff Chris Abril took over the office. They said it&squo;s increased from 2,000 gallons to 3,000 gallons per month, not including the extra 15 gallons per day last month.