August 8, 2013

Editorial: Give system chance to work

Franklin County is spending $1,000 more a month on fuel than it did previously, which seems, on the surface, to be a poor decision. But the county manager promises the new program will create a substantial savings.

The issue arose when two auditors questioned Franklin County’s change from filling up at Highway Department pumps to purchasing gas with credit cards at regular gas stations. The switch came in March, and fuel bills are running about $1,000 higher monthly.

The gas cards, from a company called Wright Express, are being used by Public Transportation, Building and Grounds, the District Attorney’s Office, Emergency Services and the Sheriff’s Department.

The Press-Republican secured documents, through the Freedom of Information Act, showing that county gas-card users paid an average of $3.12 per gallon for unleaded fuel compared to $2.99 a gallon at the Highway Garage fuel station in April and that diesel was $3.54 a gallon at gas stations and $3.14 a gallon at the Highway Garage. That trend continued in May and June.

Legislators rightfully expressed concern about the higher costs. But County Manager Thomas Leitz tells the Press-Republican there are factors that will mitigate the expenses.

Public Transportation is by far the biggest user of the credit cards, and he said the bus costs are reimbursable on a per-mile basis through state and federal aid. We have concerns about thinking those sources should pay more either, as it is all taxpayer money, but Leitz assures us the county cost through Wright Express is less than regular gas-station customers and also that the county won’t be charged tax.

He says the switch will reduce mileage for drivers now going out of their way to the highway pumps — only two or three miles for the north-end pump but about 15 miles roundtrip in the south end.

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