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Commission addresses vehicle issue at special meeting


LITTLE ROCK - The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission today approved a revision in the agency's vehicle assignment and use policy. The vote was 6-1 in favor of the change.

During the meeting, property management committee chairman Rick Watkins said he had listened to Gov. Mike Beebe's comments at Tuesday's press conference.

"I'm encouraged to report our staff is recommending an approach that is in the spirit of what Gov. Beebe has asked all state agencies, boards and commissions to do," Watkins said. "We will continue to support executive and legislative leadership on this issue."

The prior policy, which was adopted in 1990, had included assignment of agency vehicles to the director, assistant director, division chiefs and assistant division chiefs. The policy also had approved assignment of vehicles to employees who had regular field duties away from an office more than 60 percent of their work days.

Interim AGFC Director Loren Hitchcock said today's policy revision is a better way of doing business by the agency.

"The fleet management policy we have had in place was established 20 years ago. Over that time, custom and tradition have seemed to dictate policy. We're ending that today," Hitchcock said. "By virtue of a job title, staff will no longer automatically be assigned a vehicle. That starts with me."

Hitchcock also noted that the new policy will reduce the statewide vehicle fleet by up to 25 percent. "It is important to note there are 70 vehicles that have already been scheduled for liquidation," he said.

Since April, commissioners have charged agency staff with working on an extensive review of all agency policies and procedures. The review has included fleet management and resulted in today's revision of the policy.

Commissioner Ron Duncan commented that he might ultimately support the revised policy, but he cast the lone vote against the change. "I'd like to have a few more weeks to review the information before voting," Duncan said.

Commissioner George Dunklin voted in favor of the policy change, but specifically requested from Hitchcock that he and other commissioners receive monthly reports in order to monitor the vehicle reduction efforts and their effect upon agency operations and employees.

The key points of the new policy are:

  1. Reduce the individual assignments of vehicles by up to 75 percent for office employees. That change could reduce the agency's vehicle count by up 130 vehicles.
  2. All current and future vehicle assignments will be required to meet a standard whereby employees who have regular field duties that require the use of a vehicle for performance of Commission business 60 percent or more of their work days may be assigned an AGFC vehicle with the director's approval.
  3. All assignments will be reviewed annually and will be adjusted at the discretion of the director.
  4. Other personnel will have access to pool vehicles with the approval of their division chief.
  5. Employees may use personal vehicles for official business and be reimbursed with approval from their division's chief. Reimbursement will be based on the approved Department of Finance and Administration rate.
  6. The fleet reduction will be carried out in two phases. By December, half of the vehicles mentioned in the new policy will be removed from the AGFC fleet. The rest of the fleet reduction will continue during the remainder of the fiscal year and will be completed by June 2011.

The revised policy goes into effect immediately.