Fort Mill Times

Tree City will use grant to buy eco-friendly vehicles

The City of Tega Cay is stepping up its efforts to help improve air quality.

Soon, the city's fleet of cars and trucks will include almost a dozen alternative fuel vehicles, City Manager Grant Duffield said. The lineup will include gas/electric hybrids and vehicles that use ethanol-enhanced fuel.

"Air quality is a vital component of the overall quality of life," Duffield said. "Anything we can do to improve our air quality benefits everyone."

The purchase will yield several benefits, he said.

"We'll gain better fuel economy, and we should see lower vehicle maintenance costs," he said about the vehicles that will use ethanol gas and the hybrids.

For the vehicles that use ethanol, Duffield hopes to foster a relationship with a Tega Cay or Fort Mill gas station that sells ethanol. The hybrids, he said, also will be advantageous for the city.

"They don't plug up," he said. "They generate electricity while they are in motion. When you apply brakes, the vehicle generates electricity to recharge its battery."

The new vehicles, funded in part by a $232,000 federal grant, are expected to be in Tega Cay by this fall. Tega Cay must match the grant with $58,000.

"I hope we have the money to make our side work," councilman George Sheppard said. "We're currently running a budget with a $6,000 contingency (fund). I haven't seen our numbers to support our hopes and dreams at this point. It's important that we are looking at fuel efficient vehicles, but it's also important that we look at our budget constraints."

The $58,000 required to match the federal grant will not come from this year's budget, Duffield said. Instead, $38,000 will come from the 2009-2010 general fund budget and $20,000 will come from Tega Cay Utility Department.

The endeavor which comes on the heels of a recent budget amendment to stop projected financial shortfalls ushered reservations for Councilman Larry Harper.

"The question you have to ask is, is that going to be beneficial in terms in of cost and our budget?" Harper said. "There's a balance between trying to use energy innovations and financial obligations."

The purchase is a wise move for the city, Mayor Bob Runde said.

"If would be foolish not to take advantage of the grant," Runde said. "This is an opportunity at a minimum risk."

Neighboring Rock Hill also is no stranger to using alternative fuel vehicles.

"We're trying to set the example," said Marty Burr, performance manager for the City of Rock Hill. "We're trying to do our part to clean our environment."

The city has purchased 53 such vehicles, he said. As recent as this year, the city purchased 17 vehicles. Of that, 13 are part of the police fleet. Costs range about $20,000 per each vehicle, he said.

Using the alternative fuel cars and trucks helps reduce carbon emissions which wreck havoc with the atmosphere. In Tega Cay, the trucks will be used in the public works and Tega Cay Utility departments while the cars will benefit code enforcement and building inspection, Duffield said.

The additions will replace vehicles that date back to 1988 and top 200,000 miles, he said.

The $58,000 required to match the federal grant will not come from this year's budget, Duffield said. Of the total needed, $38,000 will come from the 2009-2010 general fund budget and $20,000 will come from the Tega Cay Utility Department.

The vehicles are slated to be in place by October.