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Reports call for monitoring NC motor fleet, selling helicopter

Posted March 14, 2012 12:37 p.m. EDT
Updated March 14, 2012 7:10 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.