Lisbon panel considers GPS units for all village vehicles

LISBON – The village Board of Public Affairs is exploring whether to outfit its vehicles with GPS tracking devices to generate information they hope can be used to improve efficiency.

The topic was discussed at last week’s Village Council meeting and comes several months after the BPA began requiring its employees to maintain a mileage-and-gasoline log when driving village vehicles.

“We’re not getting into this for disciplinary reasons but we see it as a valuable management tool,” BPA member Bill Hoover told council.

The tracking devices would allow officials to determine the exact location of the vehicle at any time by simply logging onto the computer program. Hoover said the GPS device would tell the BPA the speed being driven and even if the employee was using their cell phone while driving.

The BPA imposed the gasoline/mileage requirement following an unexplained 29 percent increase in gasoline purchases last year by water and sewer workers. The record log requirement resulted in a 50 percent reduction in gas bills the first month.

While the BPA members are pleased with their efforts to reduce gas consumption, they are still interested in exploring other ways to save more money, Hoover said, and tracking devices may be able to help by detecting patterns that can be altered to improve efficiency.

Village Solicitor Virginia Barborak expressed some reservations about potential liability issues arising from the use of GPS devices. One example Barborak cited is if the village would fail to discipline an employee caught texting while driving, and she said some insurance companies have problems with these devices.

Youngstown apparently has no such concerns, with officials there announcing last week that 330 city vehicles would be outfitted with GPS tracking devices. Meanwhile, an employee in the Trumbull County Sanitary Engineer’s Office was recently fired after, among other things, the GPS device on her county vehicle determined she took a nearly two-hour lunch. Several years ago, a government employee in another county was fired after the GPS device on his vehicle determined he was a home for long periods during work hours.

Hoover assured Barborak the BPA would consult with her before deciding whether to go forward. “We’re not rushing into it,” he said, adding that employees would be fully informed. “We’re not going to hide anything.”

The tracking devices cost $350 and there is a monthly online fee of $15 per device.