One problem I’ve had in trying to change the way our Town does business is that the issues I’m trying to address – higher energy costs, revenues drying up, development policy that drives diversity from our community, financial instability – haven’t reached a level of concern for the greater community.

I’m a proactive guy, work in an industry that rewards innovation and leading not trailing the pack, so it just makes sense to me to work an issue before it rises to a level requiring crisis management. Trying to raise folks concerns about %10-20 tax increases two or more years before they are implemented is a tough task – doubly so when tricks are used by our elected officials to postpone the inevitable. Trying to prepare folks for the impact of $4/gallon gasoline on the Town’s budget when gas in $2/gallon is a tough sell – doubly so when Council members publicly discount prudent measures in spite of obvious trends.

In any case, I’m just dumb enough to keep trying to work issues prior to a crisis point – it just makes good financial and social sense.

A case in point. I asked former Town Manager Cal Horton 4 years ago for public records documenting fuel use by Chapel Hill’s staff. About the same time, I asked for information on electricity use at each of the Town’s facilities. My idea was to identify specific problem areas, measure policy changes to see how effective our Town’s “green” goals were being met, to look at rewarding staff for impressive reductions in their energy use and basically get prepared for the anticipated increase in energy costs.

This was four years ago when gas was under $2 a gallon.

Four years later, after numerous requests, a new Town Manager, I still haven’t received any of those records. I’m going to make another run at doing that analysis – now in retrospect – to see not only see how we can pare down the cost of operating our Town but to understand if the policies so far adopted have had any direct effect.

Here’s what I asked for Sept. 26, 2005:

3a(10). Will Raymond, regarding Agenda Item #5b, Fuel Supply, Cost and Budget Issues for the Town’s General Municipal Fleet and Transit Bus Fleet.

Mr. Raymond petitioned the Council regarding Agenda Item #5b, Fuel Supply, Cost and Budget Issues for the Town’s General Municipal Fleet and Transit Bus Fleet. He noted he had sent the Council an email regarding the purchase of bio-diesel fuel, and was pleased that shortly after that the Town had purchased 1,000 gallons. Mr. Raymond said that was a “fantastic” first step and hoped the Town would follow up on that, noting that at the present time bio-diesel fuel was 20 to 30 cents a gallon cheaper than diesel or kerosene.

Mr. Raymond said there appeared to be some confusion in the agenda item, noting there had been some discussion that they could burn bio-diesel fuel in their buses, and now they were saying that maybe they could not. So, he said, he had called Detroit Engine that made the engines for the buses, and they were recommending to their customers that a 20 percent blend was “perfectly suitable” for those engines. Mr. Raymond said that Detroit Engine had indicated they would be happy to work with the Town and could possibly get that blend higher. He encouraged the Town to contact them and take that action.

Mr. Raymond also suggested that since they were running at a deficit within the fuel budget that they today start with targeted reductions in the amount of fuel they were using. He said they still have vehicles that idle wastefully, and that yesterday he had observed a Town vehicle left idling for two hours. Mr. Raymond said with the price of gasoline that was unacceptable behavior. He asked that the Council take immediate action to conserve fuel.

THE COUNCIL AGREED BY CONSENSUS TO REFER MR. RAYMOND’S COMMENTS TO AGENDA ITEM #5b.

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