Council questions chief on fuel costs

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By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

Kellems says officers cut driving in half

CANNELTON - Cannelton Police Chief Kenny Kellems fielded questions about his department's gas consumption at a June 9 common-council meeting.

"Fuel (costs are) near and dear to me," he said. "I'm on my guys all the time."

He added the price of a gallon of gas is projected to hit $4.50 by July.

Councilmen Adam Goffinet and John Young III questioned him about the police department's driving habits in light of rising costs. Goffinet raised the issue by asking whether officers refuel their vehicles at a city-owned tank.

"I hear there was some thieving and water in the gas," Kellems said, explaining that officers fill up at the Circle S station in the city.

Utilities Superintendent Phillip Ball said Friday his drivers, who use the city tank, have reported no problems with gas quality in the five years he's been on the job. A lock on a fence surrounding it and another on the pump's on-off switch provide security, he added, and logs showing amounts delivered and gallons used always match up. His department pays $3.94 per gallon of regular unleaded gas.

"Are you doing anything to conserve gas?" Goffinet asked Kellems.

Kellems said gas consumption has dropped from one-half to one-quarter tank a night. One car is in use at any one time most of the time, he explained, while "Friday and Saturday nights or during special events, we usually have another car out." Domestic disturbances, which Kellems noted are among the most dangerous calls an officer can respond to, and accidents at the Ohio River bridge are examples of situations he said will result in a second officer being called.

Young said several people have asked him "why there are so many cars running around during the day; I've seen three cars going through town."

"The safety of this city is my main concern," Kellems replied. "There are times we need two or three cars."

"Kenny and I talk once or twice a week," Mayor Smokey Graves said. "No one budgeted for $4 (per gallon) gas last year. If there's more than one car out there, there must be a reason. Kenny won't commit a car just for driving practice."

"Can we save money by going to Hancock County (Kentucky)?" the mayor asked. "It does add up."

"I have to call the State Board of Accounts," Clerk-Treasurer Arvina Bozarth said. "They may frown on us doing that."

She said Friday she had checked with two members of that board. One said it would be OK, the other said it wouldn't, "so I e-mailed them, looking for a definitive answer," she said.

In other business, Kellems reported Patrolman Eric Dickenson would undergo shotgun and lethal-weapon training at the state's law-enforcement academy.

Except for travel, the expenses would be covered by credit the police department earned by donating a used car to the academy.

Kellems secured city leaders' authorization in February to make that donation.