Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, April 24, 2000

Wright County approves mileage increase

By John Holler

Over the last three months, gas prices have risen sharply, resulting in additional costs for almost all of us. Whether it's people who have long commutes to work or truck drivers who deliver food or goods, the increase has been felt across the board.

Those increases have also affected employees of Wright County, many of whom have to drive personal vehicles many miles as part of their jobs. It was for this reason that a request for mileage reimbursement increase was forwarded to the Wright County Board at its April 18 meeting.

The request came from the human services committee, which was estimated to account for about half of the county's mileage reimbursements for personal vehicles. The issue wasn't a unanimous mandate from the committee, which passed along the recommendation by a 3-2 vote. A similar plight would face the question at the board level as well.

Commissioner Pat Sawatzke said he opposed the increase because there was no cost figures estimating what the final cost would be - leaving the additional costs open ended.

"I'm opposed to this because we're going to approve an increase on something without having any documentation," Sawatzke said. "We're told that the human services department accounts for about half of the mileage reimbursements, but we have nothing to prove that. We have 17 other departments in the county and I'm not going to vote for something without having any information."

The proposed increase would raise the reimbursement rate from 31 cents a mile to 32.5 cents a mile. Under the cost estimates, the human services increase alone would result in an additional $3,000 in county costs, with a total of an estimated $6,000 in reimbursement increases this year alone.

Board Chair Dick Mattson said he was opposed to the increase because, up until the most recent increase in gas prices, he felt the reimbursement rate was too high.

"There was a lot of discussion of lowering the cost of this when gas prices fell so low last year," Mattson said. "We didn't do it then and seems to me that now we're coming back close to being in line with what the cost should be."

Mattson and Sawatzke were alone in their objection, as the other three commissioners voted in favor of the increase, including Commissioner Jack Russek, who voted for it at the committee level.

"I cast the deciding vote at the committee and I guess I'll be doing it here, too," Russek said. "Nobody will be getting rich off of this. It just shows our employees that have to use their own vehicles for work that we recognize the added expense that they're facing."

The motion passed 3-2 and took effect immediately.

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