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Auto-use policy to receive city council scrutiny

By Staff
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle's City Council could decide on a policy governing use of municipal vehicles as early as its next meeting.
But, according to City Administrator Ferrell Vest, the proposed policy isn't entirely new to employees.
"This deals with administrative issues we've always had but not had in writing," Vest said. "This places the responsibility on department heads."
The council recently came under fire for the number of city employees who drive municipal vehicles. The proposed policy doesn't change who can use a vehicle, but does spell out the terms for use.
The council will discuss the policy at its Jan. 27 work session. It will start at 6 p.m. at city hall. Vest said the matter could be voted on the next night at the council's Jan. 28 meeting. That meeting starts at 7 p.m.
The proposed policy places the responsibility and decision on who can drive city vehicles with the department head. There are also other basic requirements, including having a valid driver's license, being at least 18 years old, and being insured under the city's vehicle policy.
City vehicles may be assigned to employees who have "continuous on-call" status. Those employees include the mayor, fire chief, police chief, city administrator, parks and recreation director, department of development director, public works director, city clerk and any other department managers who are named by the council or mayor.
Those designated people are allowed to drive their vehicles home since they are considered to be on 24-hour on-call status. The policy also allows those employees to drive city vehicles home for lunch breaks, if the person does not live too far from the job site, the privilege is not abused and they have permission from the department head.
Other employees will be allowed to drive city vehicles home if they are placed on a temporary on-call status or are attending job-related out-of-town training, among other criteria. Department head permission is required before those employees would be allowed to drive the vehicle home.
The policy specifically forbids using municipal vehicles for activities such as hunting trips, personal vacations or activities related to any other employment. Each department head will be required to keep a log showing the date, time, purpose and miles traveled by any employee outside of regular work hours.
Also, employees using some city vehicles are required to report that use on their income taxes. The Internal Revenue Services charges users $3 a day for driving a city vehicle home.
Some city vehicles, such as police cars or any others clearly marked with city decals or identification, are exempt from the IRS charge.
The police department will continue to operate under its own automobile policy.

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