Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why Take Home Vehicles?

Take-home vehicles may sound like a “perk” to some, but if you have a life threatening incident, like a house fire or a hostage stand-off (rare but not unheard of in Longmeadow) you will be glad an incident commander is on the scene as soon as possible. An armed intruder, a broken water main, a serious sewer back-up, a road collapse, a snow or wind storm, any event which requires coordination of people and perhaps agencies, requires an incident commander.

The recent concern about take-home vehicles has resulted in a thorough report to the Select Board about their usage in Longmeadow. Six people, all of whom are on-call 24/7 for emergencies, have vehicles which are taken home at night: the Fire and Police Chiefs, the DPW Director, the Highway Supervisor, the Buildings Supervisor, and the Water Supervisor. Since the vehicles have to be purchased and insured anyway, the cost of taking them home is based on how far away the user lives, an average use of 17.5 gallons per mile and a cost of $3.02 per gallon.
The total estimated cost for taking home these vehicles is $3,761.71 annually.

The Buildings Supervisor is on the road at 4:30 a.m. during winter snow and ice events so that he can report road, parking lot and sidewalk conditions to the Superintendent of Schools by 5:00 a.m. He has also responded in the middle of the night to intrusion alarms at school buildings (10 of them during 2008) and Greenwood Center and roof leaks reported at the High School after hours.
Cost to the town: $153.93 a year.

The Fire Chief responds directly to the scene for any structure fire, hazardous material incident, or any call that does not sound “routine.” He carries in his vehicle personal protective clothing, radio equipment, a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit and oxygen, pre-plans for buildings, maps and materials for establishing incident command. At least twice he has arrived on the scene before the truck and was able to minimize damage.
Cost to the town: $269.21 a year.

The Police Chief is able to monitor the situation from his cruiser as he responds to emergencies. He returns to the Police Department at least several times a week. The cruiser carries a variety of police related equipment, including weapons.
Cost to the town: $358.95 a year.

The Water Supervisor responds to every water main break and stays until the job is complete. He also comes in when the crew is flushing hydrants and responds to calls for suspected main breaks, low water pressure, checking pressure recorders, etc. In one case he came to oversee a water meter replacement for the Jewish Nursing Home in the middle of the night because the service could not be interrupted during the day.
Cost to the town: $1,036.46 a year.

The Highway Supervisor responds to every storm, trees down across roads or power lines, water main breaks, main line sewer blockages, sewer odor complaints, flooding, etc.
Cost to the town: $894.61 a year.

The DPW Director responds to all the emergencies that call out the Buildings Supervisor, the Water Supervisor and the Highway Supervisor. He is often contacted by the Police or Fire to report emergencies. Many occur late at night or early in the morning, on weekends and on holidays.
Cost to the town: $1,048.54 a year.

The public safety and public health benefits of the take-home vehicles seem obvious. The decreased response time for every kind of emergency mitigates the outcome. There is also another less obvious benefit to the town. We don’t garage these vehicles. (Picture the supervisor driving his own vehicle to the town yard or the public safety complex and chipping ice off it before he can respond to the emergency.) It is quite likely that the take-home policy provides better care for the vehicle and extends its life. Overall, the practice of take-home vehicles is probably more of a benefit to the town than to the employees.

By Kathleen Grady, Longmeadow Select Board Member