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2014-01-30

GPS devices to be installed in city vehicles

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

As her rationale for having GPS tracking devices installed in vehicles owned by the City of Bandera, Councilman Nita Jenkins noted on her agenda request: "My feeling is, if you tempt anyone to do a bad thing, then it is your sin as much as theirs."
Her sentiments were apparently shared by Councilman Glenn Clark. During the by-now infamous Jan. 9 city council meeting, they both advocated adding GPS units to city-owned vehicles.
Clark described the installation as "standard business practice," while Jenkins said, "I've heard you've got to trust employees, but I always thought, 'You don't tempt employees'."
Although he agreed with his colleagues, Councilman Jim Hannah attempted another tack, saying, "This argument has turned to distrust, but this is simply another management tool."
Questions kept resurfacing about the city's service contract for the Flying L Public Utility District (PUD), which supplies water to the subdivision south of Bandera. At issue seemed to be the amount of time city employees spend on their duties at the Flying L. Mayor Pro Tem John Hegemier noted that the city has a contract to service the PUD's water system.
According to City Administrator Mike Cardenas, a three-year contract for installation of GPS units to eight city vehicles would be $350 per vehicle plus $250 annually to track the vehicles. The tracking would be done in five-minute intervals.
"If you're going to track employees, are you going to hire someone to analyze the results?" asked George Hamilton.
When told tracking could be accomplished on any computer, he continued, "I think this is a bad idea. When you get a printout, someone is going to have to analyze the data."
According to the calculations of Mayor Don Clark, the GPS devices would save the city 20 to 25 percent in fuel costs and time.
"We already track mileage driven with the amount of fuel consumption," Cardenas told council.
When asked if the GPS units would be installed in vehicles used by city law enforcement, City Marshal James "Charlie" Hicks told council that calls for service going out to his department are managed by emergency dispatch.
In an earlier meeting, Cardenas said that employees could be just as easily tracked by their city-issued cell phones, but apparently council desired more fool-proof methodology.
"Believe me, if city vehicles go to San Antonio or Kerrville, city council will get calls," Cardenas said, "because I get calls." He noted that in such cases, employees are using city vehicles to attend classes or for other city-related business.
After council unanimously approved the installation of GPS units in city vehicles, Cardenas noted that a budget amendment would be necessary to pay for the tracking devices.