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Local governments take steps to conserve fuel

Posted 4:59 p.m. Tuesday
Updated 7:04 p.m. Tuesday

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— As drivers across the region search for gas, city and county governments are relying on reserves and some conservation measures to ensure their vehicles have enough fuel to last until gas is once again flowing through an interstate pipeline.

Colonial Pipeline officials said they expect a bypass line installed to get around a rupture in one of their main distribution lines should be operational by Wednesday, but experts said it will take several days for the supply chain to stabilize in North Carolina.

Wake County has a nine-day supply of gas for its fleet of 900 vehicles, spokeswoman Jennifer Heiss said. Still, the county on Monday implemented conservation efforts aimed at cutting gas usage by 20 percent, including eliminating unnecessary travel, not idling county-owned vehicles, using electric or hybrid vehicles as much as possible and encouraging employees to carpool or use mass transit.

County officials said they don't anticipate any problems, but emergency vehicles take priority over any other government services.

"Ambulances are going to stay full. Units that are responding to emergencies are going to stay full when they need to," said Jeff Hammerstein, assistant chief of Wake County EMS.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said he told his deputies to use common sense to conserve fuel, such as not idling the engine while work on reports or responding to email.

"The citizens of Raleigh should not be concerned because, if they call for any type of emergency, we will be there," Assistant Fire Chief Keith Tessinear said. "We're sure we'll have fuel to run the fire trucks and to handle any emergency that comes up."

Raleigh City Manager Ruffin Hall told the City Council Tuesday afternoon that city services were running as usual but that city officials also have put conservation measures in place, such as holding off-site meetings via teleconference, not topping off gas tanks and using more public transit.

"We've suspended non-essential travel for training and off-site meetings," Hall said. "Non-emergency vehicles will only use the fuel they need for the day's work."

The Wake County Public School System uses diesel fuel for its school buses, so it hasn't been affected by the pipeline outage, spokeswoman Lisa Luten said. The district also keeps a six-day supply of fuel on hand, she said.

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