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County approves trial of fleet fuel card system

BY ALICIA B. HILL
DAILY-NEWS

On Tuesday, the Troup County Board of Commissioners voted in favor of a six-month trial period for fuel cards to be used for county vehicles.

The board of commissioners considered the proposal of the fleet fuel cards at length during its Thursday work session, discussing ease of tracking expenses and how the county could spot possible abuse of the cards. Commissioners also went over a competing proposal to fund the half-million-dollar replacement of the outdated county fuel center.

“We have — over the course of the last couple of years — been struggling with our fuel tanks, fuel farm at the old [correctional institute] in the maintenance area,” County Manager Eric Mosley said. “So, we’ve been looking for some solutions to that problem.”

Troup County staff recommended that the commission allow for a trial period of using fleet fuel cards that would let employees fill up county vehicles at commercial gas stations.

The proposed card would allow county management to view expenditures almost in real time to check for any misuse of the cards.

“What I think is important is the exception codes that come in for the departments to review,” Division Director of Public Services Dexter Wells said. “You can set in so that if they get 28 gallons, and your car holds 22, it sets a flag that goes to the person that is over that department saying, ‘They are getting more gas than their car will hold.’”

County staff recommended the use of a trial period for the fleet cards to see if the county can save money using them over replacing and using the fuel centers as it has in the past.

“We looked at fleet cards and thought that we would at least try it for a year,” Cashwell said. “If nothing happens, then all we’ve lost is a year on replacing the pumps, but I think it is going to be a good thing. … The sheriff’s office may have a deputy out in Hogansville, and he needs fuel, so he’d have to come back into town. It is a lot of traveling back and forth [to get to the county fuel center], and I estimate conservatively that we would save about $74,000 in time that we spend.”

The commission requested a shorter trial period of six months after which the Troup County Board of Commissioners plans to evaluate how the system is working compared to the previous system.

Cashwell said that fuel cost for driving to the fuel center and the impact of having firefighters and TCSO deputies unavailable while driving across the county to the fuel center were not included in the estimated savings.

He said the estimate was based on a $20 an hour pay for the employee driving to the fuel center, which is below what many of the employees who would be fueling the vehicles are paid, and he noted saved administration costs.

However, there would be an additional cost of $67,000 a year for fuel due to the cost of retail versus wholesale gas.

Commissioner Morris Jones asked if the county could get a discount through the fleet fuel card program, and Cashwell said the programs reviewed did not offer significant discounts on fuel. Sales tax charges are expected to be removed from the charge before the county is billed for the fuel.

“The WEX —I think is the one that we all decided we wanted to go with — is under state contract,” Cashwell said. “That is what they do. They have expertise in these fleet cards.”

County Attorney Jerry Willis questioned if county vehicles, especially large vehicles like firetrucks, would clog local fueling stations. Mosley said that they would go to the large vehicle pumps like tractor trailers.

If the county decides that it does not like the cards after six months, the board of commissioners will need to decide on options regarding replacing fuel tanks that were put into the ground in the 60s and have not automatically tracked fuel use for years.

“The fuel system hasn’t been running properly for the last couple of years, and we don’t really have a way of recording the fuel by each car,” Cashwell said. “We used to have little keys that recorded it, but those have been out of commission for a while.”

The keys were used to track how much fuel went into each vehicle, but since then the county has been using a paper log to track fuel.

Cashwell said the entire system would need to be replaced to restore the county’s ability to digitally track fuel use using something similar to the old system. The replacement would cost at least $500,000 and would last about 15 years, including the addition of a high-test pump which is needed for certain vehicle models used by the Troup County Sheriff’s Office. Annual maintenance was not included in that cost.

According to Cashwell, Troup County could use SPLOST funds to cover the expense, but he questioned if the funds could be put to better use on other county projects.

If the Troup County Board of Commissioners does decide that the county should continue use of the cards after 6 months, the county will be required to shut down the fueling stations and perform any necessary environmental cleanup.

Other items covered during the meeting on Tuesday included:

4The Troup County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted on a resolution opposing House Bill 302 and State Bill 172, state legislation which would preempt local building design standards.

4The board of commissioners voted unanimously to approve a beer and wine license application for Highland Pines Resort, Marina and Sunset Grill, which is under new management. The new owner, Daryl Jones, was in attendance and shared plans to open the restaurant with a full menu in April.

The Troup County Board Commissioners will meet again on March 14 at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Avenue.