Government Fleet Top News

Rising Fuel Prices Impacts Local Departments

January 16, 2008

LITTLE FALLS, N.Y. — With the average price of gas rising and threatening to jump to $4 per gallon, municipal departments such as the department of public works and the police and fire departments in the community have to deal with the changes, according to the The Evening Times.

Although many communities, such as the villages of Dolgeville and St. Johnsville and the City of Little Falls use bulk gas for municipal vehicles, that does not mean cost does not affect their budgets.

According to Little Falls City Treasurer Dave Petkovsek, budgets for the city’s DPW and police and fire departments are expected to be raised about 30 percent.

“As far as 2007 is concerned,” said Petkovsek, “we ended up over-expending for fuel for our vehicles in each department. Of course, we haven’t really started going through the budget, so these are preliminary numbers, but each of those departments will probably go up about 25 percent from what we budgeted for 2007. For police and fire last year, this was about $12,000 and for the DPW it was about $50,000.”

As far as 2008 is concerned, Petkovsek said, the DPW alone can expect about $100,000 for fuel, without looking at set numbers yet.

The city must also take into consideration fuel to heat city hall, fuel for street lights and to run the water filtration plant and fuel for the police and fire department fleets. “The price of gas is going to be a major impact on the 2008 budget,” said Petkovsek.

Supervisor of Public Works Rick Zilkowski said that creeping gas prices will affect the department as long as they continue to rise.

“I’m anticipating at least a 30 percent higher amount of use for fuel, which includes propane, diesel and gasoline and also a minimum of at least 10 percent with National Grid,” he said. “Just the increases alone should amount to $150,000 to $180,000. We have to anticipate increased cost in petroleum-based products, along with surcharges for deliveries of salt and parts. The preliminary numbers are just for the cost of fuel, but the domino effects are going to be drastic.”

Little Falls Fire Chief Robert Parese said that the cost of gas is increasing, but that it does not affect daily operations between the ambulances and fire engines. “All the vehicles except the chief’s car run on diesel fuel,” he said, adding that the fire department fuels up at the DPW garage. “The cost is the same to us as the rest of the city. Our ambulances run a lot more than the fire trucks, so they use more fuel.”

Assistant Chief Michael Masi, of the Little Falls Police Department, agreed that, because the police department fuels its vehicles at the garage, the cost is the same to them. “The city buys bulk gas,” he said. “We operate two patrol cars 24 hours a day. Unless they are out at the station, they’re running consistently. The average miles used per 12 hour shift is 80 to 85 miles, depending on call loads.”

Dolgeville Police Chief Howard Lanphier said that they have been saving the village money for a few years.

“When we bought the [Chevrolet] Impalas a few years ago, we tried to come up with a mileage cap that was flexible depending on calls,” he said. ‘It keeps mileage down each day, in addition to the fact that the Impalas were better on gas than he Fords we previously had.”

There are three cars currently on Dolgeville’s fleet of police patrol vehicles. Two of them are Impalas and the third is one of the old Fords.

The chief said the newer vehicles are used 90 percent of the time.

“The [new cars] have been working well for us so far,” Lanphier said. “When fuel prices went up, we had already been saving the village money.”

Dolgeville Mayor Bruce Lyon said that between the wastewater treatment plant, the village DPW garage and the police, several departments have requested an increase in budgeted funds for fuel.

“With fuel prices going up,” he said, “we just have to figure in extra money. It’s a never-ending battle.”

Dolgeville’s DPW put in for a 10 percent increase for fuel in the budget, but probably will exceed that cost, said Supervisor Paul Nagle.

In St. Johnsville, Supervisor of Public Works Chris Weaver said during a snow storm it is not uncommon to fill a vehicle up twice in the same day, especially with three trucks in use for plowing the village. “It depends on what activities are going on,” he said. “Usually, on a day when it isn’t snowing, a truck can run about two days on a full tank for normal running around in the department.”

The village has several fuel-running equipment such as a snow blower, a Bobcat with a snow blower attached to it, a sidewalk snow blower and a backhoe loader. “In last year’s budget, we raised the cost of fuel up a lot because of the jump in price, and I’m sure this year is going to be the same,” he said. “It’s not just fuel for the vehicles, but even to heat the garage is costly.”

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