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County to take look at vehicle policy

POSTED: August 8, 2011 6:52 p.m.

Effingham County commissioners are vowing to take a closer look at who can take county-owned vehicles home at night.

Commissioners are expected to discuss a vehicle policy in an upcoming workshop and who has the ability to drive a vehicle back and forth to the house, “that is, who is on call,” County Administrator David Crawley said.

Commissioner Bob Brantley said it was related to him that certain people were given vehicles to take home in lieu of pay raises.

“I think that is a bad, bad policy,” Brantley said, though Crawley said he did not have anything to confirm that.

Commissioners also said they want to take a look at the definition of on-call and who has the authority to determine on-call status.

The county currently has six vehicles, outside of the sheriff’s office, that are considered on-call and are allowed to be taken home. Departments that have those capabilities include recreation, public works, magistrate court, fire and emergency management. The total of take-home vehicles used to be nine.

“We have further restricted that to say they cannot leave the county,” Crawley said.

Commissioners said they wanted to take a look at the number of vehicles in the sheriff’s office that are allowed to be taken home at night.

“We’re going to ask the sheriff to consider the vehicles going out of the county,” Commissioner Steve Mason said.

Said Commissioner Reggie Loper: “We talked to him about that before, and we didn’t get anywhere.”

Mason also questioned the feasibility of having a public works on-call employee but Kobek explained it could save time to clear a blocked road and set up traffic diversions, instead of having to drive to the public works facility and then respond to a scene.

Crawley said the public works on-call first responder also could determine what needed to be done and then summon additional assets as needed.

Commissioners also are holding off on conducting additional tours of jails as they weigh what to do with the existing jail and sheriff’s administrative complex.

“Before we spend days looking, I would like to have more discussion,” Brantley said. “Going off to look at a 750-bed jail is not something I want to do. I’d just like to have a little more information. I think we should look at all options.”

Said Chairman Dusty Zeigler: “If everyone hasn’t toured our jail yet, tour it first before we get the conversation going. It might be something that can be repaired. It might be an issue that can be an add-on.”

A new jail and sheriff’s administrative complex was made a tier 1 project on the special purpose local option sales tax extension passed last year. A new jail is estimated to cost approximately $16 million.

“We were very upfront about the jail being a Tier 1 project,” Crawley said, adding the commissioners reassured the cities during service delivery negotiations about the plan. “The $16 million does come off the top. But we wouldn’t take that revenue from the beginning of the project.”

Crawley said the county, which collects the penny tax, would go ahead with distributing the money so the entities could start working on their own projects. The county also discussed a five-year lease-purchase agreement on a new jail.

“From our standpoint, it would be better to do some short term financing,” he said.

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