SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - The city of Springfield is trying to cut money out of it's budget and the mayor has told 22News that police and fire department jobs could be in jeopardy.
One place some city councilors are looking to cut is the amount of take-home cars in Springfield. The 22News I-team discovers how many there are and how much it is costing the city.
The city of Springfield spent more than $3 million for its fleet of cars during the last fiscal year. $1.8 million dollars on gas, $270,000 for repairs and maintenance and $1 million on vehicle supplies. That's
according to Human Resources Director Bill Mahoney.
17 members of the fire department have a take-home car. 13 members of the police department, including the mayor have take-home cars and 78 non-public safety employees take a car home, according the take-home car list sent to 22News by Springfield's human resources director.
"They're looking at cutting positions we got a huge gap in the budget, they want to raise the tax fee, but they won't cut take home cars", says City Councilor John Lysak.
The 22News I-team got our hands the list of all the city employees with a take home car and it's the parks department with the most on this list.
"In the park department we have about 27 cars total that will go home with different employees", says Patrick Sullivan.
Sullivan is Springfield's Director of Parks, Buildings and Recreation Management. Sullivan told the 22News I-team they get three to four emergency calls per month and have to be ready for severe storms
as well. He says it's more cost-effective to have take home cars.
"They had to go drive to the park, get their car then drive to the emergency we're paying more in overtime costs to have that happen." says Sullivan.
One position on the take home car list we found said "Park Toll Booth" under location. The I-team went to Forest Park and found out the person doesn't work in the toll booth, but does oversee it.
("I know he's not the toll booth operator but what kind of emergencies does he respond to?")
"He (the employee) does both irrigation and with a retirement he's doing double-duty. It's not daily, but you have to be ready to respond to those things that come up", says Sullivan.
Sullivan also says safety is an issue.
"We've had instances where we had windshields broken and tires slashed, when we have had vehicles stores in the park", says Sullivan.
"If i counted right... 16", says DPW Director Al Chwalek.
("And all of those should have in your opinion should have and need to be respond to emergencies with a take home vehicle?")
"Absolutely", says Chwalek.
Chwalek is Springfield's Director of Public Works. He also lives in Springfield.
"There's folks who work not only in my department but other departments that live outside the city limits", says Chwalek.
Some city employees with take home cars live in Westfield, Hampden, Monson, Granby and Belchertown.
Take home cars are supposed to be used for emergencies only when the driver isn't working.
"Passengers no way, using the car on the weekend after hours no way, clearly if you're driving home and want to get a gallon of milk, i don't think that's an issue", says Chwalek.
(You've seen some city employees with take-home cars using these cars for other things, haven't you?")
"I have seen vehicles taken, I've seen someone pick up their child at daycare, I've seen families in the cars. On Patriots Day, when all the city employees are off I've seen a gentlemen who had his wife and children in his car, these vehicles are being use for personal reasons.", says Councilor Lysak.
Chwalek told the 22News I-team one of the things they are recommending is for the people who live outside the city to reimburse the city for their fuel. The City Council's finance committee will discuss this "vehicle take home" policy at a meeting on Tuesday.