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County weighs options on cutting fuel bills
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Effingham County officials are looking at ways to pare fuel costs.

Commissioners got a look at the second draft of a proposed $30.67 million budget at their May 6 meeting
County finance director Joanna Wright said fuel expenses have exceeded expectations and the line items for fuel have been increased in the proposed fiscal year 2009 budget.

“This is getting critical,” Commissioner Verna Phillips said.

Commissioner Verna Phillips also asked county staff if there was anything that could be done to conserve fuel.
“It’s astronomical,” she said.

Interim county administrator David Crawley said some counties are going to four-day work weeks, with employees working 10-hour days. Some counties are putting certain offices on half-staff in order to continue operations. They also are cutting on power usage.

“We’re looking into if it’s feasible or not,” he said.

“This is getting critical,” Phillips said. “If you can get a 20 percent reduction in cost, it’s something we need to look at.”

But there was concern expressed at how that might effect those needing county services, from paying bills and taxes to getting permits.

“Are we efficiently serving the public doing that?” Chairman Myra Lewis said. “From a worker’s standpoint, I would prefer that, that you’re already there. But our accomplishment is to serve the public, not us.”

Yet having some offices open longer for four days a week might allow some people to use those services after leaving work, instead of having to take time off in the middle of the day. Crawley said it might be easier on residents who work outside the county, and that figure is estimated to be about 70 percent of the county’s workforce.

“For people to get a permit or a business license, they’re having to take a day off,” he said.

Crawley said the other counties have encountered some problem in letting their citizens know about the adjusted office hours but there haven’t been many reported drawbacks.

“It’s a coordination issue,” he said.

There was also the worry about the county employees themselves and having to rearrange schedules for childcare.

“It’s something that warrants looking into,” Lewis said.