Council Committee Discusses Vehicle Policy at Meeting
New Martinsville City Council’s committee number one held a workshop meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 30 to discuss ways to deal with the city’s vehicle policy. This policy, according to city officials, is not being complied with.
Present for the workshop were committee members Iris Isaacs and Joel Potts, along with council members Jeff Wright and Holly Grandstaff. Mayor Steve Bohrer presided over the meeting, with Recorder Bonnie Shannon also in attendance. Finance Committee Chairwoman Kay Goddard was absent but showed up for a later discussion on Hydro plant issues.
According to city officials, all departments in the city are to abide by the vehicle policy. However, the biggest issues seem to lie with the police department. City officials claim the issues arise over the use of vehicles outside the realm of employment. The majority of the blame is being laid on the police department; however, city police officers claim they are taking the vehicles home to provide quicker response time when they are called.
City officials say that taking the vehicles home is leading to additional wear and tear on the vehicles; the city is also concerned with insurance costs and liability issues.
Councilwoman Iris Isaacs, a member of the finance committee, spoke about the affect the police department’s use of vehicles outside of work is having on the city budget. She made it clear she supports the police department and there is a need to have the officers respond quickly in certain situations. However, she was also concerned with the liability issue and the condition of the city’s nine cruisers. “I will fight for the police department, but the city budget comes first,” stated Isaacs.
“We have a lot of things going on that people don’t know about, and I am in a position to see these things. I want to find a solution to this problem, but I think the best thing to do is have Chief (Tim) Cecil sit down with his department and come up with a plan and bring it to us, so we have something to work with,” Isaacs said.
The vehicle policy currently in force allows only one on-call employee to take a vehicle home. Currently seven of the city’s cruisers are being taken home, which is in violation of the policy. The policy, which is in force, also spells out penalties for violations.
The policy handbook is what the city’s insurance carrier has used to base its current premium on. There is no mileage limit in the policy at this time. The insurance company had a representative at the meeting to answer questions.
The representative said even though the city is not abiding by its own policy handbook, the city would still be covered if there were an accident. However, he said the risk is greater and the city loses some immunities if a city employee is driving while not on duty and becomes involved in an accident.
Councilman Jeff Wright posed a question to the insurance representative: “Are we putting the city at liability by allowing the employees to take vehicles home?” The representative responded, “Yes.”
The committee agreed the issue needs further attention, and changes to the policy may need to be made. The committee directed Police Chief Tim Cecil to bring back a proposed plan that committee members could look at, which might work for all involved.