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Let’s stop legislating with heart, use logic

Just go with your gut. That's seems to be the overriding factor at least two Lawrence County Commissioners used in decisions last week.

First, commissioners voted last week to seek bids for possibly privatizing the county's emergency ambulance services. Currently, the county participates in a three-county partnership served by Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Service.

While we agree that considering our options is a good idea - it never hurts and it might save our cash-strapped county some money - such a project needs a little logical direction.

No specifics were discussed as to what, exactly, the bids would seek to accomplish in terms of services offered. Nothing about response times was mentioned. Nothing about coverage areas was discussed. Nothing about new or improved services the county may need was considered, just a blanket request: We need ambulance coverage. That should be enough, right? It's not like anyone's life depends on getting the best service for our dollars or anything.

In the same meeting another commissioner arbitrarily decided to increase the mileage reimbursement rates given to employees who use their personal vehicles for county business. The decision was apparently made not after study and using logic but rather just using the "it seems like we need to pay them more" philosophy.

The county's new rate is in line with the recently increased federal maximum allowed for mileage reimbursement. Remember, however, government once purchased $400 hammers and $600 toilet seats.

The new county rate of $0.40 per mile seems a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to us. While gas has increased significantly, let's consider the actual numbers at play here.

Most cars - even modestly sized sport utility vehicles - get at least 20 miles per gallon of gas, so we'll start with the assumption that all the vehicles likely to be driven and reimbursed will fit into that mold.

By burning one gallon of gas on county business, a county employee would be paid $0.40 per mile or $8 for the 20 miles produced by the one gallon of fuel. Even after the fuel expense is reimbursed out of the $8 that leaves more than $5 left for the "wear and tear" the vehicle sustained in that 20-mile stretch, insurance for the day's drive, a can of pop or whatever else.

At that rate, the county might be able to save money by buying its own vehicles and assuming the wear and tear, insurance and other maintenance costs.

Let's assume than an average vehicle is driven at least 12,000 miles per year and that gas will cost $3 per gallon. Still using our 20 mile-per-gallon example, the county would be paying out $4,800 in vehicle reimbursement for something that - at least in terms of pure gasoline expense - only cost the driver $1,800.

Come on guys, stop legislating by the seat of your pants and start putting your brain where the taxpayers' wallets are.