Should county use SUVs? |

Should county use SUVs?

The national debate over SUVs found a public forum in Nevada County on Tuesday, when county Supervisor Peter Van Zant proposed a plan to cut the costs of maintaining 254 county vehicles.

Van Zant asked the Department of Transportation and Sanitation to develop a policy that encourages the purchase of cars that are fuel efficient and environmentally friendly for the county fleet.

Van Zant said he hopes to reduce the $238,586 the county spent last year on gasoline.

To begin, Van Zant requested investigating whether the county needs the 84 sport-utility vehicles it currently owns. He said he supported retaining large vehicles if they are needed for safety or accessibility.

“In no way do I want to compromise public safety,” Van Zant said.

His proposal was generally well received by his fellow supervisors, although Sue Horne and Robin Sutherland pointed out drawbacks to a potential policy.

Sutherland said the vehicle budget could be cut by encouraging carpooling and examining the number of cars owned by the county.

Also, she said, the plan could take money away from local dealerships.

“I support Nevada County keeping money in Nevada County. We have people who sell certain types of cars here,” Sutherland said. Vehicles encouraged by Van Zant, such as hybrids, are not readily available in the county, Sutherland said.

Van Zant agreed there was a “tricky” balance between spending more taxpayer money locally and saving money but expending it elsewhere.

The board agreed to investigate the county’s fleet maintenance policy and directed the staff to return Nov. 23 with an evaluation.

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