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Local Law Enforcement Agencies Feeling Pain at the Gas Pump

Posted May 17, 2007
Updated May 18, 2007

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— Fluctuating gas prices are taking a toll on local law enforcement agencies in such a way that the North Carolina Highway Patrol says it might have to cut back on enforcing traffic laws if it does not get more funding.

So far this fiscal year, the Patrol has spent approximately $6.1 million on gasoline although it's only allocated about $3.6 million to fuel its 1,800 patrol cars.

To make up the difference, it's had to reallocate funds from other programs and special projects, such as speed enforcements and crackdowns.

"We've had to limit those this budget year, because we simply don't have the money to pay for overtime," Patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin said.

In the state's current budget proposal for next year, the Highway Patrol is scheduled to get the exact same amount of money for fuel as this year. That could mean serious issues in how the state agency operates, Clendenin said.

"We're talking, maybe, to have to park troopers on the side of the highway," he said, adding that would mean little or no traffic enforcement.

The funding can only come from the General Assembly, which is already working on next year's budget.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Crawford, D-Granville, said any additional funding would have to come from the state's Highway Trust Fund, which finances road construction.

"I'm sure we'll be looking into that and trying to give them some relief," he said.

Fluctuating gas prices have made it difficult for officials to project reasonable budget amounts. When funds were allocated for this year, fuel prices were beginning to drop. Looking ahead to next year will prove difficult, said Tom Kurlya, who heads the fleet division of Wake County government.

"As far as projecting next year's price per gallon and budgeting the right dollar amount, it's very difficult," Kurlya said. "No one's got that magic Eight Ball, so we try to go off of what we've actually paid for fuel."

Kurlya manages the 419-vehicle fleet of the Wake County Sheriff's Office, which expects to come in under it's budgeted fuel amount of $857,000. He credits some of that to buying fuel in bulk.

But the sheriff's office has had to make a number of changes to the way it operates. For example, it has started downsizing some of its vehicles from Crown Victorias to Chevrolet Impalas, which get about 4-5 more miles per gallon.

Another change that Kurlya credits to saving money: Officers now have commercial fuel cards they use at selected gas stations in their patrol areas. That keeps them from having to drive to one of three designated service areas in the county -- which can be up to 50 miles roundtrip.

"That amounts anywhere from 3 to 4 gallons of saved consumption on every trip," Kurlya said.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said those changes were necessary to help keep the public safe.

"We're going to go to the calls. We're going to continue to patrol," Harrison said. "If we have to rob part of our other budget to make sure we have gas in these cars, we're going to do that."


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  • Steve Crisp May 20, 2007

    "My typing skills and spelling/grammer **ARE** terrible tonight, I apologize... it has been a long week..."

    Sorry, I couldn't resist. :) :) :)

    Get some sleep, and thank you for all you guys do. I really mean that.

  • Rescuer1506 May 20, 2007

    My typing skills and spelling/grammer is terrible tonight, I apologize... it has been a long week...

  • Rescuer1506 May 20, 2007

    Steve, I cannot say i agree with your view points on other topics, however you make some very valid points throughout this thread. Emotions and opinions aside, your points are right on target. Public transportation would drastically make a difference in our area. if you look at other "metro" studies (i.e. Buffalo, NY, Cincinati OH, Chicago IL, and even Charlotte NC {our big sister}) it makes a huge economic and social difference. I also agree that our elected officials from top to bottom lack true leadership ability... money buys everything (a bit exagerated...but...) Personal planning will help to defend an individual and a family against unexpected change... unless you work for a gov't agency like myself (lack of real cost of living raises, and decent merit raises to compinsate for inflation and economic flux like we face now). Alternate fuels and forms of energy are a great idea, but again, money is needed to kick start a new trend. Fact: many humans are reluctant to change.

  • Steve Crisp May 19, 2007

    To LegalBeagle: And I for one am estatic that Congress will not provide funds for local law enforcement gas. Anytime Congress gets involved bailing people, companies, states, or cities out of their financial mess, all that does is diminish the drive for those entities to do better. And the viscious cycle then continues.

    I am also glad that the NC Leglislature does not have the power to run deficits as Congress does. The effect would be the same thing, except that the local and state taxes would go up dramatically in order to pay for that deficit. And the locals have a greater ability to collect those higher taxes; in many cases, they can just come in and seize your house for non-payment.

    No, local government needs to pay for local expenses. And if local taxes need to go up, it is the local electorate who decides so and if those taxes are being used properly.

  • mindyourown May 19, 2007

    Since when is the government worried about overtime???? Congress can vote themselves a 50% pay hike but they can't pay for gas for our law enforcement?? What a crock this entire issue is....

  • lizard May 19, 2007

    We were OK until we had to share power with women. Then everything went to stuff that made us "look good".

    Where the devil do we put our prisoners if we don't drive large cars? You gonna come get them for us (you)?

  • freddie cadetti 72 May 18, 2007

    Solve the gas problem in NC. Troopers pull someone for speeding in excess of 15 mph...take the car, 30 days. Have the violator use the mass transit system the libs are pushing.

  • Lee May 18, 2007

    Think about it people...Who really does waste Our hard earned tax money? Men have the power and control in the Govt. In most of the households where the Men control the money...they have all filed for Bankruptcy!!!

  • Living and Loving in NC May 18, 2007

    Let Raleigh hold true to its progressive demeanor. Let the Raleigh police force lead the way in converting over to hydrogen fuel cell technology.

  • thepeopleschamp May 18, 2007

    sflemon, I'm guessing your probably not a Sheriff or Chief of Police. Do you really expect to put our leo's in Ford Escorts or Honda Civics for 12 hour shifts? One reason they purchase Crown Vics is not because it guzzles gas but because it is a long lasting reliable car that doesn't require constant maintenance. A Ford Festiva just will not hold up to what those cars go thru.