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Hempstead eliminates take-home car perk for appointees

On Wednesday, Newsday reporter John Asbury spoke about

On Wednesday, Newsday reporter John Asbury spoke about Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin's plan to sell or return some of the 40 take-home vehicles he has taken back from department heads and deputies. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin has eliminated 40 take-home vehicles for town commissioners and department heads and said the town plans to sell some of the fleet or return the cars to the town’s motor pool.

Clavin made the announcement Wednesday standing in front of dozens of Jeeps and other take-home vehicles that town officials project will save $616,000 over five years.

Clavin had vowed during his campaign to eliminate all take-home vehicles for appointed exempt government employees. The town began collecting vehicles last month after he took office and started a review of the fleet.

Vehicles will still be used by some union employees and allowed for commissioners in individual cases with the approval of Clavin’s chief of staff Joe Nocella.

“We have discovered approximately 40 take-home vehicles being used by department heads and deputies, not only for their daily purpose of government service, but for the ability to go home and travel to and from their home,” Clavin said. “Well, we’ve changed the rule.”

The town expects to save $462,000 by selling or reassigning 21 newer model cars and Jeeps.

The town is consolidating the remaining 19 vehicles into interdepartmental pool vehicles for town employees to use during work hours. The pool vehicles will be stationed at town facilities and also be available during emergency situations, Clavin said.

Town officials estimated the pool vehicles will save the town $154,000 in gas and maintenance costs over five years.

Clavin said the proceeds of vehicles sold and savings of take-home maintenance costs will be used for town road projects and community programs. Vehicles will be listed for auction on the town’s website in the coming weeks.

Savings were calculated based on fuel costs, reduced maintenance and repairs, reduced liability risks and collision claims.

“In simple terms it translates to savings for taxpayers,” Clavin said. “There is always going to be a need and a use for a vehicle in different government departments, and we recognize that. We also need to recognize these are taxpayer dollars and we need to be very cost effective and efficient.”

Clavin said he turned in his town vehicle last year and drives his family’s 2009 Chevy Tahoe.

The remaining vehicles will be labeled with the town seal, department and a telephone number, but will not list the names of Clavin or other elected officials.

“We get calls from people’s neighbors saying, 'I know that person’s a pencil pusher for the town why do they need a vehicle?' ” Councilman Dennis Dunne said. “It kind of makes sense.”

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