Baltimore Co. takes away the car keys

November 01, 1991|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of the Sun

To cut costs, Baltimore County officials have reduced the number of county cars going home with employees each day by 119 and have said that 90 more cars will be cut.

But department heads will continue to take home cars because they are on call 24 hours a day, county officials say.

Some 61 cars were cut from the fire department in January, 44 from the police department in July, seven from Central Services in April and seven from the Circuit Court's Child Support and Child Custody divisions in July, said Carol Hirschburg, a spokeswoman for County Executive Roger B. Hayden.

She said that the cars will be sold or added to the county motor pool for daytime use on county business.

The numbers were released yesterday, two weeks after Mr. Hayden announced he was reducing the 468 take-home cars to 259.

Mr. Hayden said a new county policy requires those with take-home vehicles to reimburse the county at the rate of 10 cents a mile for mileage driven to the office. Cutting out the cars and collecting the mileage reimbursement is expected to save the county $300,000, he said.

Employees who drive their own cars on county business are reimbursed 27.5 cents per mile. Heads of the affected departments said the cuts have not hurt operations.

Battalion Chief Ralph Nelson, a fire department spokesman, said that most of the 61 cars cut from his department were used by fire prevention inspectors, who now park their county vehicles at fire stations near their homes and pick them up each morning. "I didn't hear that it was a major inconvenience," he said.

Not everyone was pleased.

Aza Howard Butler, director of the Circuit Court's custody and mediation division, had to surrender her 1991 Chevy Cavalier.

"It was the first time I had a new car," she said. "It was the first time I had a car with a radio . . . and . . . with air conditioning."

But she acknowledged that it may be a little hard for some people to feel sorry for her: She now drives her own car, a BMW.

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