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Katrina Gas Shortages Caused N.C. Cities to Rethink Fleet Management

August 3, 2006

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the flow of gasoline to North Carolina dried up, causing shortages and skyrocketing fuel costs. City governments in both Greensboro and Winston-Salem adopted strict fuel conservation guidelines limiting nonessential trips by city staff, according to Yes! Weekly (Greensboro, N.C.).Although both cities gradually relaxed restrictions on vehicles post-Katrina, Winston-Salem city officials used the opportunity to reexamine aspects of the fuel use and vehicle acquisition policies. General Services Director Sandy Barfoot said the motivating factors behind policy changes involved both fiscal and environmental concerns, Yes! Weekly reports. So far, departments have cumulatively curbed their use by a little more than 8 percent, by improving route efficiency while avoiding cutting services, Barfoot said.Both cities are establishing written guidelines for vehicle purchasing, management and maintenance, as well as testing hybrid, biodiesel and low-emissions vehicles for use in municipal functions.City Manager Mitchell Johnson raised concerns, saying that some Greensboro vehicles, such as dump trucks or snowplows couldn't be swapped for smaller sedans or hybrids. He also said he felt uncomfortable about trying to limit patrolling by police officers. In Winston-Salem police vehicles are also exempted from the alternative fuel/hybrid goal.Despite attempts to reduce fuel consumption, the cities have limited power on the impact of fluctuating gas prices on their budgets, as planning is done a year ahead of time.
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