POLK COUNTY, FL – High fuel prices have driven Polk County agencies to find ways to save.

County Manager Mike Herr is responding to rising fuel costs and tight financial times with a plan he said could save $130,000 a year. And the Sheriff’s Office is trying several methods to save. Herr outlined the fuel conservation measures, which could cut fuel costs by six percent, according to www.theledger.com.

The key points are:

· All county vehicles will be driven no faster than 55 mph, except on interstate highways and when public safety vehicles are responding to emergencies.

· “No idle zones” signs will be posted at county buildings to remind staff members of the county’s policy to discourage unnecessary idling of engines.

· County departments should use the fewest number of vehicles possible.

· Training programs will be implemented to teach county employees efficient driving habits.

· County fleet vehicles will be downsized where practical.

· County fleet managers will investigate using alternative fuels, such as propane.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Grady Judd issued a handout that is being circulated throughout the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Judd’s program is targeting a 10 percent fuel reduction by measures ranging from turning off vehicle engines 15 minutes per hour, driving less, checking tire pressure, and carpooling to meetings. The handout said results will be monitored, and tighter measures could be enacted if fuel savings lag.

Beginning Oct. 1,  Judd is planning to modify the policy that lets deputies drive cars home and will encourage deputies to seek assignment to the sheriff’s station nearest to their homes.

Sheriff’s spokesman Scott Wilder said Judd has been converting department vehicles to cheaper, more fuel-efficient models since shortly after taking office in 2005. That has meant switching from eight-cylinder Ford Crown Victorias to six-cylinder Chevrolet Impalas for patrol vehicles and from six-cylinder Ford Tauruses to four-cylinder Ford Focuses for other vehicle needs.