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County adopts vehicle policy
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Effingham County commissioners approved a vehicle use policy Tuesday, adopting guidelines that cover who has use of county cars and where they can use them.

Commissioners also decided to have all out-of-county travel approved by department heads. Under the draft policy, approval for travel to the contiguous counties was not needed.

“Anytime a car flies out of this county, they need to have department head approval,” Chairperson Verna Phillips said.

Phillips asked why some county vehicles were seen parked with the motors running. Ambulances, because they have generators, are often left running while parked, and deputies’ cars sometimes will be left running in order to keep the camera systems cool, Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie explained. The cameras, if they get too hot, will shut down.

“Sometimes it takes 45 minutes for the camera to cool off and come back up,” he said.

But he said he wanted to be told if a sheriff’s department vehicle was left running while unattended. Sheriff’s vehicles also may be left running while stopped if they are responding to a call. The K-9 vehicle also may be left running while unattended.

“The only time it should be running is when we have those camera situations,” McDuffie said. We hope to have those cameras out and replaced this year. That was a bad purchase on our part.”

County commissioners also will be getting a quarterly report on who are first responders and the vehicles assigned to them. Commissioner Myra Lewis asked for the policy to clarify who the first responders by department are.

“You could have 15 to 20 first responders,” she said. “This could be misconstrued. I thought there wasn’t enough accountability.”

Commissioners changed the policy to read that first responders may be assigned a vehicle by a department head.

The county vehicle policy also covers such things as county employees are expected to obey all traffic laws, while noting that emergency vehicles may need to be parked illegally and that emergency vehicles may need to leave the county for mutual aid requests.

Sheriff McDuffie said his department is updating its standard operating procedure manual on vehicle use and will turn that into the county administrative staff so they will know what the sheriff’s department vehicle use policies are.