Macon council panel wants mayor to cut auto fleet

A Macon City Council committee wants Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration to determine how the city’s fleet of vehicles can be reduced by 10 percent.

Councilman Tom Ellington proposed the idea as a way to address rising fuel and vehicle maintenance costs. A resolution approved unanimously Tuesday by the council’s Public Works and Engineering Committee gives the mayor 90 days to report back with a plan.

“We have heard repeatedly we could make this kind of cut to the vehicle fleet without damaging the type of services we provide,” Ellington said.

One theme that has come up often during the past year, particularly around budget time, is the ballooning expense the city incurs annually trying to maintain an aging fleet. For example, the city still is driving police cars that are a decade old, and for a period in the previous mayoral administration, officials went several years in a row without purchasing new ones.

Macon counts about 670 vehicles in its fleet citywide. It’s not clear how much savings might be obtained by getting rid of close to 70 of them, though presumably those most expensive to maintain would be targeted.

Ellington said part of the purpose in asking for a study, instead of mandating across-the-board cuts, is because it will take a certain level of scrutiny to determine which type of vehicle or department could best withstand the reduction.

An administration official resisted the resolution Tuesday to some degree. Keith Moffett, Reichert’s director of internal affairs, said the mayor’s office already is gathering some of the requested information, making an actual resolution unnecessary. He also said it was a “misperception” that council members had heard that the city’s fleet was excessive in the first place and needed to be cut.

But Moffett said administration officials understand the spirit of the council’s request.

“Fuel of course is a big, expensive item,” he said. “And what uses fuel is the vehicles.”

Other council members said the concern about maintaining an overly large fleet should be a familiar one. Councilman Mike Cranford, chairman of the council’s Appropriations Committee, said even when he served his first term in the late 1990s, the city’s maintenance department said Macon didn’t need the number of vehicles it had.

“This is not something new, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

In a separate matter Tuesday, the Public Works Committee also approved legislation reducing the amount of refuse city residents can dump at the landfill for free. Currently, they may dump two loads of trash per week, each weighing up to 1,000 pounds. According to the new ordinance, they could only show up once per month with a load of 500 pounds or less. After that, the standard tipping fee would be charged.

To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.