Does Bedford Spend Too Much on Vehicles For Town Officials?
At their Nov. 5 meeting, the Selectmen discussed the cost of providing take home vehicles to town employees.
Selectmen William Moonan and Michael Rosenberg, along with members of the Finance Committee, presented a report on the current assignment of take home vehicles to town employees, and the cost to the town of providing these vehicles.
Moonan began the report by informing the Selectmen that Bedford is unlike most other towns in that it has a Facilities Department.
The report breaks the 19 take home vehicles provided by the town to employees into three categories, safety, which includes police and fire officials, facilities and town officials, including the Town Manager and Department of Public Works employees.
|Department||Number of Vehicles|
|Safety (Police, Fire, Code Enforcement)||8|
|Town (Town Manager)||1|
Moonan said the first priority was to look at those employees with take home vehicles who are considered first responders.
"Our consensus was on a safety basis you want those first responders to respond right away, and in that case take home vehicles make a lot of sense," Moonan said.
The concern coming out of the report is that certain take home vehicles are being used by town employees for long commutes to and from work every day, including the DPW Highway Operations Manager, who registers a 92 mile round trip commute every day, and the Facilities Department Boiler Technician who registers a 98 mile round trip commute every day.
In gas, also paid for by the town, the take home vehicles used by the DPW Highway Operations Manager and the Facilities Boiler Technician are costing the town $4,388 and $8,686 each year respectively.
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The largest annual contributor to take home vehicle expenses is the Facilities Department at $40,100 every year. According to the report, "these vehicles are all trucks or vans and most commute more than the average number of miles each year (11,500 to 31,400 miles)."
It would not be cost effective to take these vehicles away from Facilities Department employees as they negotiate their contract with the School Committee, and the vehicles are considered a "condition of employment," according to the report.
If town officials attempted to eliminate the use of town vehicles for commuting for Facilities Department employees, "the employees, as a member of a collective bargaining unit, would want to negotiate to retain the use of the vehicles or to be compensated in some other form," according to the report.
The report concludes it is costing Bedford $73,000 a year to provide vehicles to town employees.
In examening alternatives to the current allocation of take home vehicles, Moonan noted compensating employees at the current IRS mileage rate ($0.55/mile) would only lower the cost to the town by less than $1,000.
Moonan said other alternatives would be to put a cap on the miles the town would compensate employees for commuting or to require town employees to start keeping a log for the usage of town vehicles.
"Every place I've ever worked that has allowed take home vehicles has had a log," Moonan said. "It acts as a check, it's a good piece of control."
Finance Committee member Stephen Steele, who worked with Moonan and Rosenberg on the report, said he questioned whether employees who make long commutes to work should be considered first responders.
"How can you live 40-something miles away and be here in time to respond to anything," Steele said.
Rosenberg pointed out the town would more than likely have to wait until a time of significant changeover in staff to implement a cap on compensation for commuting miles.
"Every town that implemented a cap, it had to be at a transition point," Rosenberg said.