Some Richmond City Council members cast a skeptical eye Tuesday on the practice of supplying city vehicles for the use of certain employees.
Currently 10 Richmond management employees have city-issued vehicles. Together they have logged an average of 14,188 miles per month during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay said.
Employees commuting between home and work account for about 11,567 of those miles.
All 10 of the employees live outside of Richmond, and the longest one-way commute is about 99 miles, Lindsay said. Cost for fuel is slightly less than $20,000 annually and vehicle maintenance is less than $5,000, he added.
Lindsay said the expenses are justified because the employees, who are non-safety personnel, are on call 24-7 and often make stops for city business before coming to the office.
In total, it costs $25,838 annually to maintain all 10 cars. The program is being phased out, he said.
City officials have done research and are considering establishing a city car share program for the community to use the city-owned cars on the weekend. City staff is still in the preliminary phase of discussing if this is a viable option for the cars after the current program ends.
“The plan is to phase out the vehicles and replace those with auto allowances, which is customary now for managers,” Lindsay said. “We are no longer assigning vehicles when somebody comes on board, but this was part of the offers and acceptances by management employees and we want to be fair when phasing those out.”
Some city council members said supplying vehicles to management is a perk that Richmond taxpayers shouldn’t have to bear.
“I think that when you go to a job, you drive your car and then pick up a city issued vehicle to take care of city business,” Vice Mayor Corky Booze said.
“My objective is to make sure any waste that is taking place in the city is handled. I’m concerned because we have the price of the vehicle, wear and tear and people using city gas.”
Some Richmond residents also took issue with the city car program.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable to think people who live far away can respond to an incident quickly anyway,” said Jackie Thompson, during public comment.
While Lindsay agreed that the program could be reevaluated, he said that officials have to discuss any changes they want to make with Local Union 1021. Lindsay maintained that it would be required per state law.
Council member Nat Bates said employees who live far away should compensate the city for excessive mileage.
“Taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for excessive mileage away from the city,” he said. “There has to be a limit.”
In other business, the council voted to instruct city staff to draft an ordinance that would implement urban agriculture incentive zones. Under the legislation, owners of land devoted to agricultural use, would see significant property tax discounts.
Implementing such zones are in line with the city’s efforts to support urban agriculture as there are already several organizations within the city that have cultivated community gardens along the greenway, at local schools and in neighborhoods, the staff report said.