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Saluda revisits take home vehicles

Saluda Commissioners debated on Monday, Aug. 12 whether or not it’s beneficial for some employees to take home city vehicles. No decisions were made to change the current policy of vehicles driven to and from home to work.

Mayor Fred Baisden initiated the conversation saying two years ago the city decided they would allow take home vehicles on a six-month trial basis and look at it at the end of six months.

“We haven’t looked at it and it’s been two years,” said Baisden.

Baisden said he had finance officer Ron Cole put together some documents on mileage.

The mileage was reviewed with commissioners for a dodge, a 2002 Ford Explorer and a 2010 Ford Explorer. Baisden said on average, the Dodge is driven to and from work 8,268 miles per year, the 2002 Explorer is driven 4,772 miles per year and the 2010 Explorer is driven 15,964 miles per year based on miles to and from each employee’s home to work and back five days per week. At 15 miles per gallon and gasoline being $3.25 per gallon, that’s $6,284 per year, Baisden said, not counting wear and tear on the vehicles.

Commissioner Johnnie Kinard said the idea of employees taking home vehicles started with former police chief, the late Rick Corley, who Kinard said paid to use the city’s vehicle. Kinard said ever since the chief has been given a vehicle, but the city restricts it to drive to and from work only.

“I’m not sure but pretty much most city administrators are furnished a vehicle and I know all the chiefs in the area have a police vehicle,” Kinard said.

He said administrators and chiefs are on call and it’s a safety issue. Commissioner George Sweet said the theory behind the take home vehicles for the chief and administrator is they are on call all the time.

Saluda resident Karen Bultman asked the board who determines what is a reasonable distance from Saluda. She said there’s a big difference from someone who lives on Henderson Street (in Saluda) and someone who lives 15-20 miles away.

“How do we even know how these cars are being used,” Bultman asked. “I tried to get a mileage usage report and I guess one doesn’t exist.”

Sweet said he had to keep a log when he had a company vehicle and the reason he had to keep a log was because he was also allowed to use the vehicle for personal use. The city’s requirements, Sweet said, is the vehicle is to be used to go home and back and they can do some incidental stops on the way.

“I don’t have a problem trusting those employees to do what they are supposed to do with city vehicles,” Sweet said.

He said the city needs to evaluate whether it’s cost effective to have those employees take vehicles back and forth. The benefit, Sweet said, is that the city expects those employees to respond to the needs of the city 24 hours a day seven days a week.

Sweet said although he doesn’t know of police activities, he’s seen city administrator Erny Williams in town at night, on weekends and holidays responding to city situations.

“And I don’t think the 8,000 miles he’s using is an inappropriate expense,” Sweet said. “I’m OK with it.”