Ky. police agencies take precautions as fuel prices rise

Agencies are finding ways to budget and reduce fuel usage for a "worst-case scenario"

By James Mayse
Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

DAVIESS COUNTY, Ky. —High fuel prices have not yet impacted operations of area law enforcement agencies. But officials from the Daviess County Sheriff's Department and Kentucky State Police said they have made, or could implement, changes to reduce fuel usage if gasoline prices stay high.

The average gasoline price in Kentucky on Wednesday was $4.42, according to AAA, although the price of regular gasoline was more than $4.53 per gallon at some city convenience stores that afternoon.

One year ago, the average price of regular gas in the state was $2.89, AAA reports.

Sheriff Barry Smith said the department began planning for higher gasoline prices when it prepared its annual budget in December. The sheriff's office has a calendar year budget cycle.

"When we did the budget, gas was already going up, so I made sure to put extra money in the fuel allotment, not knowing where it would go," Smith said.

The office budgeted a "worst-case scenario" of gasoline prices hovering around $4 a gallon.

Although prices are higher than $4 per gallon, the price was lower than that in the first months of the year, which should offset higher prices now, Smith said.

The sheriff's office, other county departments and city government pay less than pump prices because the city and county have a joint agreement in which they purchase gasoline under a contract negotiated by the city.

"Budgetarily, I think we'll be all right if (prices) stay around the $4 mark," Smith said.

[RELATED: Pain at the pump: Another crisis for public safety]

Patrol operations have not been affected, Smith said, but the department is asking patrol deputies to shut off their engines when they are out of their vehicles on service calls.

"Those kind of things we can control," he said.

Next month, department officials will review the budget to examine expenses, Smith said.

Officer Andrew Boggess, public information officer for the Owensboro Police Department, said the department hasn't made any changes due to fuel prices.

"At some point, we would have to budget for fuel at a higher rate," Boggess said. "It's hard to speak in any specifics, because you never know what's coming. But as of now, it hasn't affected our operations."

Trooper Corey King, public affairs officer for KSP in Henderson, said the agency also has an annual fuel contract to buy gas for a fixed amount, and that contract would end sometime this summer.

King said the agency took steps to control fuel consumption during the 2008 recession, and the agency could do so again.

"Right now, fortunately, when we bid (the contract) many months ago, it was at a better price," he said.

The agency's gasoline budget is separate from other KSP funds, King said.

"It isn't taking away from the troopers, and it isn't taking away from operations," he said. "Once that bid contract ends and we have to re-up, that's when you might see some changes."

Some steps would include taking nonemergency initial reports over the phone rather than sending a trooper to a scene, King said. Also, troopers would be directed to do some work tasks from their patrol vehicles, rather than driving from the county to the post in Henderson.

Troopers can be stationed in areas, rather than constantly patrolling during their shifts, he said.

But troopers would continue responding to emergencies and urgent calls for service, King said.

"There's going to be no change in service" to the community, King said. "Responding to calls, especially priority calls, you are going to get that same response.

He said if changes are made to reduce fuel use, "the public will not see a change."

(c)2022 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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