2008-04-02 / Front Page

Schools, Government Cope With Record-High Gas, Diesel Prices

Just as every private vehicle needs regular fueling stops, so do all vehicles, including school buses and police patrol cars.

With prices for gasoline and diesel hitting record highs, schools and other public entities are hit hard.

Some say they are coping with the prices as best they can.

"We have to drive a certain amount of miles to provide services," said Dennis Howell, Archbold Village administrator.

Howell said snowplows must run, and police patrols continue.

"We don't drive unnecessary miles," he said.

Beth Wanemacher, transportation coordinator for the Archbold Area School district, said bus drivers "have been proactive since the beginning of the year.

"Bus drivers are doing more turnarounds," she said.

Rather than drive around a block or around a country mile, drivers are pulling into driveways and turning around to cut the number of miles traveled.

"We do as many as we can. Some are unsafe; we don't do any of those," she said.

As an example, drivers will not turn around on a busy highway, and if there's fog, they won't back buses up to turn around.

Also, individual pickups- picking up one student in front of a home- are consolidated into group stops, where several youngsters are picked up at once. The benefit is less time accelerating, which uses more fuel.

She said the schools "don't do as many field trips as we used to."

She said school bus drivers "understand the reason" for the measures.

But she emphasized, "it's safety first. If it's not safe, do not turn around," she said.

Wanemacher said school district officials must wait until the end of the year to see if their efforts have paid off in savings.

She said while the price of fuel has gone up, the amount of miles the buses travel should be down.

Steve Switzer, Pettisville Local School District superintendent, said his district has not implemented specific fuelsaving measures for their bus fleet.

"You have safety involved," he said.

The district does what it can to conserve energy, he said.

Fulton County

Vond Hall, Fulton County administrator, said county officials "have tried for the last couple of years to modify out-ofcounty travel.

"The county commissioners adopted a policy that states that the county will pay mileage when a personal vehicle is used, at a rate 10 cents below the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) rate.

"This is an attempt to encourage the use of county vehicles.

"The county purchases bulk fuel. Much like the rest of the world, we have seen (price) increases.

"In January of 2007, we paid $1.944 per gallon. As recently as today (Monday, March 31), we paid $3.129 per gallon.

"There are, however, instances where we simply have to go- like EMS (Emergency Medical Service) runs, 9-1-1 calls, or a snowplow route.

"We are watching, and trying to deal with it just like the rest of the county residents," Hall said.

Archbold Fire Department

For the Archbold Fire Department, fuel is a necessity.

"We don't ever want to run our apparatus unnecessarily, but there are a number of factors," said Andy Brodbeck AFD chief.

"We need to train, and in order to train effectively, we need to have that apparatus running.

"We have more safe driving training mandated by the State of Ohio. We've incorporated that into our protocols. To do safe driving training, we need to drive the trucks.

"Does that help us conserve fuel? No. It causes us to use more fuel.

"But for the business we're in, for what we do, it's necessary.

"We use fuel as necessary, but we do not waste it," he said.

State Patrol

The Ohio State Highway Patrol keeps an eye on the fuel they consume.

"What we do is kind of monitor it," Jeremy Landis, a sergeant with OSHP, said.

"The post commander monitors the miles per gallon of each patrol car. If the MPG is low, we pull the vehicle out of service and have a service technician look at it."

He said if one trooper is assigned to a car, and the car gets bad mileage, they will put that trooper in another car.

If the trooper continues to return poor miles per gallon ratings, "the person's driving habits will be discussed," he said.

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