Archive for Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Area agencies feeling pinch of gas prices

March 23, 2005

Everyone's feeling the squeeze from rising fuel prices.

And agencies that serve the public are no exception.

Take, for example, the Leavenworth County sheriff's office, which has officers covering the county every hour of every day.

"Obviously, we're in the public-safety business and part of that is patrol and to patrol you have to have gas-operated vehicles," said Leavenworth County Sheriff Dave Zoellner.

"And it takes gasoline, and we do not control the price of gasoline."

The county buys gasoline in bulk, Zoellner said. "I've got to make sure that it's available."

When preparing his office's budget, it's difficult to predict fuel costs.

"There's a line item in the budget for gas for the sheriff's office," Zoellner said. "When we do the budget, we have to come up with a guesstimate of what it's going to cost -- that's real hard to do because you never know what the price of fuel is going to be."

If it looks as if fuel costs will be higher than what was budgeted, Zoellner said, he would sit down with the county commissioners and try to come up with a solution.

Options might mean the department would cut back on patrol or double up on officers, Zoellner said.

And, it means following the usual gas-saving measures, such as servicing the vehicles every 3,000 miles and following the office's maintenance program for fuel efficiency.

Scott Bolden, a Tonganoxie mechanic, said it's important to keep cars tuned up, to keep tires inflated to the correct amount to be more fuel efficient.

"And driving habits have a lot to do with it too," Bolden said. "No jackrabbit starts, ... accelerate smooth and slow and it does help."

For Tonganoxie firefighters, the number of calls they'll run is unpredictable. And if they're called out on a raging fire, their gasoline costs soar.

"We just try to watch any needless driving around," said Tonganoxie Fire Chief Dave Bennett.

But when working a fire or emergency, the engines are kept running to power emergency lights and equipment.

"If we're on a good fire and we're there overnight, it's not uncommon for us to burn a tank full of fuel," Bennett said, noting the large fire trucks have 50- to 75-gallon tanks.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.