A newly updated county policy could help stop county employees from utilizing take-home vehicles without written approval from the county manager.
The board of commissioners voted last week to approve an updated take-home vehicle policy to help the commission put its foot down on verbal promises for take-home vehicles, as well as mitigate cost and liability for the county.
The issue was brought to the board's attention by County Manager David Headley, who said that verbal promises made by past county managers and department heads as compensation had led to vehicles currently being taken home by employees with no justifiable reason.
"In the past there have been verbal commitments made by a department head in order to grant a take-home vehicle to another staff member or supervisor...one of the things that we're recommending in here is that the county manager be the one that designates who takes home a vehicle and then who would not take home a vehicle," Headley said at the April 6 meeting.
Under the new policy, no verbal contracts or special conditions will be honored or accepted.
According to the new policy, for employees to obtain county vehicles they must have to frequently "respond to after hours and weekend emergency calls pertaining to the employee's department for the purpose of protecting life and property."
Their department head must also complete a form requesting and justifying the use of that county vehicle.
Also stated in the policy is a stipulation that the employee must reside within the geographical boundaries of Dawson County, with any exceptions being approved by the county manager.
The new policy was adopted by the board with a motion from District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix and a second by District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby. It was approved 3-0 with District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett absent.
The proposed policy held an option that would allow for those currently with county vehicles that had been issued to them through verbal or written agreements to keep those vehicles until attrition or other circumstances. Nix motioned to strike that language from the policy, making it effective immediately for all employees with take-home vehicles.
Before the new policy was approved, 16 employees had take-home vehicles.
Eight were determined by Headley to be unnecessary and have been parked and the employees now utilize their own vehicles to get to and from work.
An additional vehicle due to the resignation of an animal control officer also remains parked.
The vehicles include five that will be parked, and if the employees who used them previously need to utilize vehicles for county business, they can be compensated for their own mileage.
Three other vehicles that belonged to the roads and bridges department will also be parked unless one of those employees are on-call, in which case they could check out the vehicle on rotation or be compensated for their own mileage.
At this time, all of the emergency services vehicles will remain in the possession of employees, but are still subject to review, Headley said.
The county has spent approximately $30,137.30 a year to maintain and fuel the 16 vehicles.
The yearly cost is based on mileage to the Dawson County Government Center from the employee residence and from the government center back to the employee residence only, and does not include county business mileage.
The employees that will continue to have a take-home county vehicle include: Jason Streetman, planning and development director; Lanier Swafford, emergency services chief; Tim Satterfield, emergency services; Ricky Rexroat, emergency services; Danny Speaks, emergency services; Stephen Knowles, emergency services; and Bill Tanner, emergency services.
Streetman's vehicle is part of the compensation package he was offered when he came to work for the county last year, according to Headley.
Streetman lives in Dillard, a two hour drive, one way, from the Dawson County Government Center. The cost for Streetman's vehicle is $8,325 a year, not including county business mileage.
The six emergency services vehicles together cost the county $7,625 a year.
The policy also addresses pool vehicles, those that county employees can check out for specific purposes, such as if their vehicle breaks down or if they need to drive to training or events. These vehicles are separate from the take-home vehicles.