Columbus commissioners examine vehicle policy - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Columbus commissioners examine vehicle policy

Of the 84 employees who take home county cars, 71 work for the sheriff's office. (Source: WECT) Of the 84 employees who take home county cars, 71 work for the sheriff's office. (Source: WECT)
WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) -

Columbus County commissioners decided to keep their government's vehicle policy largely unchanged after holding a workshop on the issue Monday.

The only tweak came after the litter control officer's supervisor told commissioners he didn't think the employee had ever been called to work after hours despite regularly driving a county car home. Commissioners decided the officer shouldn't commute at the county's expense.

Commissioner James Prevatte said he often get calls from citizens who spot county cars in suspicious locations: a supermarket at night, a fast-food restaurant during breakfast time and student drop-off lines at area schools.

Of the 84 employees who take home county cars, 71 work for the sheriff's office.

Commissioner Ricky Bullard asked Sheriff Lewis Hatcher if he could identify any opportunities for cutting costs.

"The people who have these cars are the people who really need these cars," Hatcher said.

Commissioner Trent Burroughs, who wasn't at the meeting, wrote in a letter that the sheriff should be allowed to determine the needs of his department.

Board Chair Edwin Russ said in an interview last week he didn't think high-ranking sheriff's office officials should get some of the department's newest cars while deputies drive older vehicles. Russ didn't directly raise the issue during the meeting.

Commissioners discussed allowing only on-call employees from other departments to take home cars. But Emergency Services Director Kay Worley said she sometimes uses her county-issued vehicle to respond to incidents even when she's not on call.

"I've been on call 14 years," said Public Utilities Director Danny Fowler, who explained he is often called to repair wells and other water infrastructure outside the regular work day.

In addition to stripping the litter control officer of his county-owned car after hours, commissioners instructed County Manager Bill Clark to create a long-term plan for replacing vehicles and buying more fuel-efficient cars.

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