WILKES-BARRE, PA - Six Luzerne County sheriff deputies who use their own vehicles to serve civil documents will be paid a combined $84,551, prompting some officials to consider use of county vehicles. According to county Controller Walter Griffith, the total reimbursement fees are for this year to date, on top of deputy salaries, reports the Times Leader.

County commissioners Maryanne Petrilla and Thomas Cooney said they want to give Sheriff John Gilligan options, and he is free to decide whether he wants to switch to using county-owned vehicles to serve the documents.

Griffith and county minority Commissioner Stephen A. Urban support the use of county-owned vehicles, saying the extra money being paid to deputies could be used to lease or purchase additional vehicles if necessary.

Gilligan said last week that he is assessing the sheriff vehicle fleet and will permanently implement the plan that's best for the county.

He stressed the vehicle reimbursement for deputies comes from a fee paid by attorneys who need the papers served and not by taxpayer money.

Past Sheriff Barry Stankus has said he covered the serving of documents by using some of the fee revenue to lease county vehicles and assigning the deputies to more evening shifts. The deputies did not receive additional pay, and leftover revenue was returned to the county, he said. The county got to keep the vehicles for $1 after several years, he said

Griffith said the money would be better spent acquiring vehicles, if needed, because the department could update its fleet and eliminate the perception that some employees are getting bonuses.

Deputies must make three attempts to serve a document. If one trip is required, a deputy may come out ahead, but the flat payment may not cover gas and wear-and-tear on the vehicle if multiple trips are necessary, the deputies have argued.

County officials said deputies who are paid to use their own vehicles must also provide proof of insurance and obtain increased insurance coverage at their own cost, according to the Times Leader.