East Ridge to vote on take-home car policy

East Ridge to vote on take-home car policy

November 10th, 2011 by Kate Harrison Belz in News

East Ridge city council member Jim Bethune

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

POLL: How far should East Ridge employees using city-issued cars be allowed to commute beyond city limits?

In an effort to avoid confiscating cars from five East Ridge employees who were violating the city's take-home car policy, East Ridge City Council is expected to vote tonight to amend the policy in employees' favor.

The city currently mandates that all employees who commute outside East Ridge with city-issued cars must live no farther than 15 miles from city limits. If approved, the new ordinance would extend that range to 25 miles.

After City Manager Tim Gobble found last month that three police officers and two maintenance supervisors with take-home cars lived outside the 15-mile limit, he approached council members with the situation.

"As opposed to pulling the cars from [the employees], I think it's probably a good call to extend the mileage - and make that the absolute stopping point," Mayor Brent Lambert said Tuesday.

At least 49 city employees drive take-home cars, according to a vehicle master list compiled in September.

The city pays for employees' gas to travel to and from work, Gobble said. Employees fill up at the city's gas pump on Yale Street, where the current rate is $2.91 per gallon.

Councilman Darwin Branam said he is a "bit uneasy" about extending the take-home radius because taxpayers would foot the bill for the extra mileage. But widening the limit also might widen the city's hiring pool, he said.

"We are a small community, and it's good for us to be able to recruit from outside the city," he added.

Vice Mayor Larry Sewell agreed that recruiting was a key reason for changing the policy, but added that he had concerns about how city cars would hold up under long commutes.

"We're in the process of buying five new vehicles, and I'd hate to see wear and tear on them from a lot of miles," he said.

Councilman Jim Bethune said he had "no problem" with the change.

"If you jerked the cars away, I think that would hurt morale," he said.

Lambert, Sewell, Branam and Bethune said 25 miles is the farthest they would want to see the take-home limit extended. Councilman Denny Manning could not be reached Tuesday.

Sewell said if any employees decided to commute outside the new limit, he would want to impose a mileage fee that could be deducted from employees' paychecks.