As a fuel-saving measure, the sheriff's office instituted a policy this week banning deputies living outside the county from driving their police cruisers home.
"With rising fuel costs, we have to make adjustments," sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said. "We've got to be on the road, but we're tightening our belts."
Of the 164 sheriff's office employees issued county vehicles, 35 live outside the county, he said.
Capt. Morris said it is too early to know how much the measure might save the sheriff's office.
The agency was budgeted $700,000 for fuel in the fiscal year starting July 1. That is an increase of nearly $460,000 since 2005.
Because the presence of police cruisers inside neighborhoods acts as a crime deterrent, Capt. Morris said employees living in the county can continue to drive county-owned vehicles home.
Under a policy set in 2005, the first year the sheriff's office initiated gas-saving measures, authorities living within 15 miles of Columbia County's borders were allowed to drive cruisers home.
Other policies set in October 2005 still in use include:
- Off-duty vehicles should only be used for official business or an emergency situation.
- Whenever possible, employees attending off-site training should try to ride with other employees attending the same session.
- Whenever possible, employees performing a patrol function should shut down their vehicles 10 minutes of every hour to conserve fuel.
Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said last month that his deputies are allowed to take police cruisers home, but personal use isn't allowed once they are off the clock.
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