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Reports call for monitoring NC motor fleet, selling helicopter

Posted March 14, 2012

— The General Assembly's fiscal watchdog agency says North Carolina needs better tracking of state-owned vehicles.

The Program Evaluation Division also released a report Wednesday calling for the sale of a high-end helicopter often used to ferry company executives looking to build in the state.

The agency previously criticized the Division of Motor Fleet Management for its inability to keep track of how many vehicles the state owns. The findings prompted lawmakers to call for creating a central database of vehicles that fleet management and other state agencies could use.

In its report Wednesday, the agency recommended investing $2.4 million to install remote tracking devices on thousands of state-owned cars. The devices would pinpoint daily usage, saving money by cutting the number of miles driven and, ultimately, the number of state cars needed, the report said.

"What we're trying to accomplish is to get a more modern fleet that is well utilized and efficient," said John Turcotte, director of the Program Evaluation Division.

Lawmakers appeared to be open to the idea.

"While there is a cost, it's a relatively minor cost compared to the potential savings," said Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance.

"It is an investment, especially when you're talking about thousands of cars, so you have to weigh it out," said Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell.

WRAL News first reported inefficiencies in Motor Fleet Management in 2009, noting that agencies paid thousands of dollars for vehicles that sat idle. The state changed its policies last year so that agencies only pay for the mileage they use.

Sikorsky S-76 helicopter Watchdog agency points out inefficiencies in NC vehicle, aircraft use

In a separate report, the Program Evaluation Division suggested that the Department of Transportation eliminate a seven-seat Sikorsky helicopter that flew just 66 hours during 2011, for an average cost of $8,500 per hour. The Department of Commerce used the helicopter about half the time for things like business recruitment.

"It would make sense to us, economically at least, to use a less expensive helicopter," Turcotte told lawmakers.

Gov. Beverly Perdue said the S-76 helicopter is often used to survey damage after a hurricane or tornado, but she acknowledged that some things need to be sacrificed for savings.

"I respect the discussions that are ongoing. I would believe there would be several things on the list," Perdue said.

Turcotte said the S-76 could be sold and that a cheaper aircraft could be shared by the Highway Patrol and the Department of Commerce.

The state's aviation fleet has declined by more than 25 percent since 2009.

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  • Rebelyell55 Mar 15, 2012

    2.4 million to install tracking devices. That a lot of money, yet the officals don't seem to think so. How much return on investment is there? How quickly can the return start showing up? A year, two years, five years? Now if they do this, what happen when the tracking shows abuse? You'll never see someone fired over mis use of the goverment equipement, they're just told not to do it anymore. I agree there should be better management of state resources, but not so sure this is the right way.

  • XLAW Mar 15, 2012

    Isn't it possible to rent a helicopter as needed on an hourly basis?

  • jdupree Mar 14, 2012

    Get rid of all of them and reimburse employees mileage. That's what most businesses do. Make sure travel is needed and can't be handled via phone or video conference. Cars cost to much to sit around or be a perk!