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Fuel prices hurt Anchorage police and fire departments

Posted: Tuesday, July 01, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage police and firefighters have asked for hundreds of thousands of dollars more from the city this year because of high fuel costs.

Police expect to spend $600,000 more on gas for their cruisers this year than initially planned. Costs at the fire department have jumped nearly $200,000 from last year.

Police used 463,500 gallons of fuel last year, spokesman Lt. Paul Honeman said. The department expects to use about 492,000 gallons this year because of staffing increases, he said.

The department planned to spend $1.24 million on fuel in 2008, based on assumptions using last year's gas prices, Honeman said. A recent projection for the year put estimated costs at $1.8 million, and costs are continuing to rise, he said.

Police and fire department officials say they can't significantly scale back their mileage without risking public safety.

"We've never stopped doing something that we need to do based on cost concerns," Honeman said. "If it ever gets to that point, it will be a contentious issue."

The fire department is undertaking similar measures, said fire department deputy chief of administration Michelle Weston.

The department used 88,427 gallons of diesel and 36,170 gallons of gasoline at a cost of $351,327 in 2007, Weston said. The department is now paying about $4.50 a gallon for diesel bulk delivery and is budgeted to spend $528,000 this year, she said.

"We're caught in a rock and a hard place," Weston said. "Obviously, fuel is a big part of our budget."

The department is looking for ways to cut fuel costs where possible, she said. Fire officials are grouping meetings together and teleconferencing and carpooling is encouraged.



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