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Most Portland departments fail to meet 5 percent fuel reduction directive

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Most Portland departments fail to meet 5 percent fuel reduction directive

PORTLAND — Last year, City Manager Joseph Gray directed city department heads to reduce their fuel usage by 5 percent.

Has the goal been reached? It depends on who you ask and how you look at the numbers.

Last year, the city as a whole used a little more than 349,000 gallons of fuel. 

City Councilor David Marshall, who leads the Energy and Sustainability Committee, said if you compare last year's fuel use to the previous year, city departments, with few exceptions, did not reach the 5 percent reduction target of a little more than 332,500 gallons.

"We have been looking at these numbers on a month-to-month basis, and we were consistently missing our target," Marshall said.

But Solid Waste Manager Troy Moon, who compared last year's fuel use to the previous three-year average of 350,000 gallons, said city departments have achieved their goals.

For Marshall, it wasn't the city's fuel use that was surprising.

"What was surprising was when city staff brought in a three-year average and said that we had hit our goal. That target wasn't based on a three-year average; it was based on the previous year's budget," he said.

The city's fuel use last year remained relatively unchanged from the previous year. Only two departments reduced their fuel use by 5 percent over the previous year: the Fire Department and Health and Human Services. Meanwhile, the assessor's office, which used 579 gallons, and Parks and Recreation, with 12,847 gallons, exceeded the reduction target by 80 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

Regardless of which view one takes, Marshall said Gray is working with city departments to find ways to conserve fuel, including looking at the best management practices of other communities.

Marshall said the city is looking into new technology that would allow the city's fleet to operate more like hybrid vehicles, which, while idling, use batteries rather than gasoline. That technology would greatly benefit the Police Department, which must keep cruisers running because of all of the electronics required.

Also, Marshall would like to the city manager take a tougher stance on fuel conservation. While last year's directive was not budgeted, Marshall would like the city manager to decrease each department's fuel budget by 5 percent. That way, they will have to either meet the conservation goal or find money in their budgets to pay for the cost overruns. 

"Regardless of how you look at this, we need to look for ways to conserve fuel," he said. "To reduce pollution and to save money." 

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net