Ellen Smith for Oak Ridge Rotating Header Image

Looking across the county line at Knox’s gas hogs

If we thought that Oak Ridge should cut back on fuel use by city vehicles, consider Knox County, where it seems (according to today’s News Sentinel) that there are 136 county-owned take-home vehicles (not even including the sheriff’s department), including 52 SUVs, 46 pickup trucks (most of them 3/4-ton Ford F-250s), and 6 “vans or buses.” That’s an eye-poppingly large number of take-home vehicles, and with typical fuel efficiencies in the range of 12-15 mpg, the vehicles that county officials drive are using up more of the county’s taxpayer money and emitting more CO2 and air pollutants than most of us thought possible.

I recognize that some of these employees need to travel to development sites and other areas where 4-wheel drive is needed, and sometimes they need to carry a lot of people or material. But that doesn’t mean that every department head needs to tool around town in a big truck or full-size SUV 7 days a week. I figure that this is mainly a cultural thing — big egos demand big, powerful vehicles. Maybe this is one of those situations where the voice of the people can help bring cultural change.

Once again, Knox County is making the City of Oak Ridge look good by comparison, but I know that our city government also could learn to get by with a less muscular vehicle fleet.



  1. Ray Kircher says:

    That was an eye-opener of an article in today’s KnoxNews. A side point to the Green Issues raised is the value of those vehicles now. How does the devaluing of these large gas hogs make the Knox County Voter feel?

  2. CrackerNation says:

    Ellen, I understand the power of bottom up policy changes, but this morning there was also news of executive rules to implement new CAFE standards and a waiver to be granted to California and 16 other states that want higher standards, faster. There is good news coming from the top too.

  3. Stan Mitchell says:

    Hey Ellen,

    I want to first thank you again for keeping up an active blog, and for taking the time to provide so much additional public interaction with the residents of Oak Ridge. This helps create stronger public trust and provides yet another outlet for folks to let you know what they think about current issues.

    On the topic of fleets, I think the city’s fleet buying program deserves more attention. I know city staff argues it’s the most cost effective way to depreciate them, at least I think that’s what they’ve said, but I’d like to see about a two or three year “NO” resolution from Council on all vehicle purchases.

    Only buy new vehicles on a case-by-case basis, and if we need to hire another mechanic, so be it. We have $180 million in debt and we can’t keep running this city as we have been.

    And for those in the public who aren’t aware, I’d like to publicly say thank you for also trying to trim last year’s budget (even on second reading). $50,000 here and $50,000 there and before long you’re talking real money.

    Onward and upward,
    Stan Mitchell
    The Oak Ridge Observer
    Direct: (865) 483-1866
    Fax: (865) 483-1630

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