Utah County residents, many of whom may have just barely gotten used to higher gas prices, may now face service cutbacks as city, state and county governments struggle to pay their own fuel costs.
Though departments buy their fuel wholesale, sellers have passed increased oil prices resulting from the Middle East crisis on to those departments - resulting in almost a 60 percent increase in costs to operate countywide services, including not only road maintenance crews but also emergency services like fire and police protection.Officials report that before the crisis, governmental agencies received their fuel for approximately 60 cents per gallon. It now costs them almost $1 per gallon.
In Provo, that increase could mean the city will spend between $80,000 and $100,000 more for fuel than officials originally budgeted for in fiscal year 1990.
Dave Gunn, director of public services, said those cost overruns could force the city to take drastic conservation measures. For example, Gunn said the city is considering asking workers, including emergency crews, who use motor pool vehicles to leave those vehicles at work.
"We know that they need to use these vehicles, but they may have to come back to the motor pool to get them if they get called out at night. It's a rash step, but we may have to do it."
In Orem, the cost overruns could reach between $70,000 and $80,000. However, unlike its neighbor, Orem will, for now, look at available fund reserves to pay those additional fuel costs.
"At this point, we're OK," City Manager Daryl Berlin said. "We're going to be monitoring the situation very closely, but I think we'll be able to make it through this year." Additionally, Berlin said the city has appointed a special "tiger team" to investigate the situation and come up with a worst-case scenario and its possible solution.
Other Utah County cities - including American Fork, Pleasant Grove, Spanish Fork, and Springville - seem to be following Orem's lead by monitoring the cost increases and trying to juggle figures into the fiscal 1990 budgets without taking funds from other departments.
"We're considering shipping out material from our old landfill to (Iraqi leader Saddam) Hussein," Spanish Fork Administrative Assistant Mary-Clare Maslyn joked. But, like its county comrades, Spanish Fork may be forced to curtail some of its capital improvement projects like road repairs.
Most city officials say it is fortunate that the increases have largely hit in late summer and early fall - not exactly peak periods for those projects.
"They (rising fuel costs) could have had an even bigger impact had they hit earlier," American Fork Director of Public Services Preston Taylor said. "Those costs still concern us, but we won't be forced into anything drastic yet."
The cities aren't alone in those concerns. Sheriff's and emergency services are provided by Utah County, and fire and recreational services are provided by Uintah National Forest.
Officials from both governments say their various departments already started conservation measures, including encouraging employees to car pool, before the crisis began.
Utah County is "just trying to be very efficient like everyone else," said Jack Phillips, supervisor of Utah County roads and motor pool. "Beyond that, I really can't say."
The Forest Service has "been very conservation-sensitive lately," said information officer Loyal Clark. "We're trying to be as efficient as possible, and to make our programs very cost-effective. That's what we've been doing all along."