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Long IslandSuffolk

Suffolk adds GPS units to its vehicles

Suffolk has begun to install GPS units in its public works vehicles in an effort to cut fuel costs and better monitor employees.

The program began recently under a five-year contract with Vehicle Tracking Solutions of Deer Park. The county will pay $23.95 per month, per unit for GPS in 500 vehicles, said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, spokeswoman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

While county officials had no estimate of potential fuel savings, the contract is likely to cost several hundred thousand dollars over its life. But Baird-Streeter noted that Suffolk will pay the monthly charge only when the vehicles, such as snow plows, which may be used only a few times a year, are on the road.

"It improves efficiency and accountability," Baird-Streeter said, noting that the GPS system will monitor vehicle speeds and idling to determine when workers are wasting fuel.

Michael Finland, executive vice president of Suffolk's Association of Municipal Employees, said the union would monitor how the county implements the program.

"I understand the reservations of a worker who'd question why their trust would be called into play," Finland said.

Babylon Town installed GPS tracking systems in vehicles in 2006, when Bellone was town supervisor. The town's initial contract was with Sprint Nextel, but in 2011, Babylon entered into a deal with Vehicle Tracking Solutions for the service.

Bellone made GPS an issue in his 2011 campaign for county executive.

Brookhaven, Huntington, North Hempstead and the Suffolk County Water Authority are among the Long Island municipalities that contract with Vehicle Tracking Solutions.Company founder John Cunningham said that beyond monitoring employees, GPS systems can remotely monitor expensive generators and alert officials when they need maintenance.

Baird-Streeter said that Suffolk County hopes to have most of the 500 GPS units installed by the end of the year.

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