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Board to debate ban on personal use of town cars

Amherst would bar its employees from making personal use of town-owned vehicles under a proposed new policy scheduled for debate at tonight's Town Board meeting.

Council Member Deborah Bruch Bucki, who drafted the new vehicle-use policy said that even before joining the board last year, she became interested in how the town uses its estimated 400 vehicles.

"It seemed to me that every so often on the agenda an item would come up about purchasing or leasing a vehicle," she said. "I wanted to explore if this would save money."

After joining the board, she studied the town's vehicle fleet and how it is used.

However, rather than writing a list of do's and don'ts, Bucki said her proposal lays out a set of policies that will be interpreted as needed by each department head.

"The rules may vary slightly from department to department when department heads implement them," she said. Department heads will also present their policies for approval by the Town Board.

"This is just a begining. As other issues come up, there will be other policy statements about the use of vehicles in the town," she said.

Under the new policy, "government vehicles may be used only for town business."

Other provisions include:

* All town vehicles must display the official Amherst seal -- only those used in police covert operations will be exempt.

* Only vehicles equipped for emergency responses may be taken home; drivers must have a valid reason requiring them to respond to service calls "outside of normal business hours."

* Drivers must have on file with the town a copy of a valid driver's license.

* Department heads shall keep detailed records on the use of town vehicles and certify annually how they are being used.

Bucki said that she is not sure how other board members will receive her proposals but that she has not heard any negative responses, and Supervisor Satish B. Mohan has been "very supportive."

Also, she discussed the proposed rules with key town officials and other town workers last summer "to get their feedback and to let them buy into" the proposals.

And her work has already produced some savings.

After the study was completed, the town's Engineering Department reduced its fleet by about seven vehicles, she said.

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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