CHARLESTON - Mississippi County sheriff's deputies are allocated a certain amount of fuel and are staying within that allocation, according to Sheriff Keith Moore, "but we didn't allocate for the high price."
"We can't let the fuel hurt us on security for the county," Moore said during the regular county commission meeting Thursday. "We still have an obligation to the people."
Bob Whitehead, jail administrator, said to come up with a fuel budget for 2005, they averaged what was used in 2003 and 2004 but did not increase the amount.
In 2004, the sheriff's department spent $25,836 in fuel with $24,000 budgeted.
The fuel budget is actually the fuel and lube budget which includes oil changes as well, the sheriff added.
Whitehead said he would like to make sure nothing was improperly coded into the fuel budget, however. "I'd like the opportunity to go back and check it," he said.
Sheriff's Department vehicles are only getting around 11-12 miles per gallon as most of the driving is stop-and-go around town, according to officials.
Some budget problems, such as an overrun in the parts and repairs line item, were due to unforeseeable circumstances such as $18,000 in repairs to the air conditioner, motor and transmission on the jail's transportation bus.
Other problems with the budget are related to bills left over from the previous administration, according to Whitehead.
"I have a list of '04 bills that were not paid until '05," he said. "I'm not complaining, but we did pay them out of that (2005) budget."
Among the bills from 2004 are an air conditioning repair bill of $4,700 from November and $1,500 from a November natural gas bill.
As for reducing the number of cars in the department's fleet, Moore said one of the Impala patrol vehicles has been parked due to a transmission problem. "There's a problem in there somewhere because there's metal shavings (in the transmission fluid)," he said. The transmission has also been making a whining sound, he said.
The department still has enough vehicles to maintain its regular patrols, according to the sheriff.
Commissioners and the sheriff agreed the Impala is probably not worth repairing and should be sold as surplus.
Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg predicted more budget problems. He said natural gas bills will be going higher and cautioned the November gas bill may be high at the jail.
"It's going to be extremely hard to predict," Commissioner Homer Oliver said of fuel and gas bills for 2006.
"The trouble is, it's going to get worse," Blumenberg said.
Blumenberg said the only way the county will get more revenue is if the county experiences growth.
In other business Thursday:
* Blacktopping will soon be taking place around East Prairie, according to Blumenberg.
"We're getting ready to do County Line Road," he said. He advised county residents to "be aware that traffic will be blocked on that road."
* Recycling trailers will placed at Wyatt by the post office, and rotated between Bertrand and Anniston, according to commissioners.
Commissioner Martin Lucas said it is important to educate grade school students on recycling so recycling becomes more widespread "instead of it all going to the landfills."