Gas Prices Hurting Some City Agencies

The rising cost of gasoline isn't just a concern for the average working citizen. It's a problem that could have profound effects on East Texas emergency services. City services in many small East Texas towns, especially those with volunteer departments, may soon feel the pinch.

"Cities I know only allot so much money for fuel costs and I can imagine right now they're looking down the road at what kind of bind they're going to be in," said Longview senior captain J.P. Steelman.

Necessary services won't be diminished.  They must respond to public calls, but there may come a point of budgetary concerns. "If the smaller cities don't have reserves if they have problems with city budgets they could very easily have to curtail operations," says Longview Police sergeant Richard Spruiell.

"It absolutely can no way effect what we do. There's still going to be a certain volume of emergency calls that require response from our department and we can't let up from that we still have to respond that way we do with gas prices the way they've been in the past," Steelman says.

Already, highway patrolmen have standing orders to conserve fuel, by making fewer patrols and using radar, as well as turning off their units at accident sites. If the price of gas reaches $3.50 to $4.00 a gallon this summer some cities will have to cut budgets first through non-essential vehicles. Most larger cities like Tyler and Longview, will draw on money reserves to offset fuel prices, but smaller areas will struggle.

"A lot of their fuel budget moneys come from fund raising activities. It'll really put them in an undue amount of pressure," says Steelman.

During the 80s and 90s, in the energy crisis, some East Texas police departments assigned two patrol officers per car to conserve fuel by having fewer patrol units operating.

Bob Hallmark reporting,