Assistant Managing Editor
County offices and agencies using a fuel complex at the Auglaize County Engineer’s Office are to pay an additional 15 cents per gallon to help maintain the system.
The decision was made recently after Auglaize County Engineer Doug Reinhart approached the county commissioners about a way to pay for upgrades needed to keep the fuel complex operational.
Fourteen agencies other than the Engineer’s Office use the fueling station ‘sfuels at cost. All 15 agencies would be charged the 15 cent per gallon fee.
The fuel management system, which tracks diesel or gasoline to the tenth of a gallon used by each agency, provides information on who filled the tank, when, how many gallons, which vehicle was filled, and calculates the miles per gallon since that vehicle’s last fill up.
Reinhart said they were beginning to have problems with the antiquated software operating the system and something had to be done. The estimated costs to update the system is $21,727.
He said one of the dispensers is not working because the software is more than 10 years old and no repair parts are available.
“Over the past 23 years, only my department and the commissioners have absorbed all the maintenance costs, which has amounted to $49,000,” Reinhart said.
“The fuel management system was replaced in 2002 and in that same year repairs were completed to the leak detection, spill containment and tank gauging for just under $28,000,” he said. “In 2012, another $20,200 was spent on spill containment, fill risers were replaced, the diesel tank was cleaned, and new drop tubes installed.”
He said the commissioners and Engineer’s Office couldn’t afford to cover the costs necessary to maintain the system anymore.
“When we got into this in 1990, we anticipated that the county engineer would use two-thirds of the fuel and everyone else one-third, but the use has grown and it is about 50 percent us and 50 percent them now,” Reinhart said.
The plan is for the Motor Vehicle License Plate fees and Gasoline Tax (MVGT) income, which comes into the county Engineer’s Office, to front the money needed for the repairs to be completed now.
Reinhart said although the additional charge per gallon would not require the Engineer’s Office to take on all the expense of updating the fuel system, fuel would still be offered to those using it for less than it could be purchased at local service stations.
Reinhart said prior to implementing the fee, the county’s fuel system was charging between 25 and 30 cents less per gallon than local gasoline service stations.
Since the fuel complex at the Engineer’s Office has a standby generator, Reinhart said they also are able to dispense fuel during a power outage in an emergency to other offices, such as the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management Agency, which may need it.
“Even with the fee, I feel we are 15 cents cheaper than buying it at the pump and I (and you) have the security of knowing we have fuel 24/7, regardless of the weather,” Reinhart said.
Using ten-year projections based on 152,000 gallons of fuel dispensed per year, which was what came out of the complex in 2012, officials considered different charges per gallon and how much they would bring in annually to determine what the county should charge to recoup costs of upgrades.
“We are trying to predict when and how much — what dollars we will need to repair failures — hopefully before they happen,” Reinhart said.
Factored into future costs were upgrades to the fuel management system now, but also new dispensers at a cost of $37,000, replacement of the fuel management system in another 10 years at a cost of $25,000, leak detection for $10,000, and a 10 percent contingency fund, totaling up to an approximate $103,400, which could be spent during the next 10 years to keep the county fuel complex operational.
At an added charge of 5 cents, it would have taken more than 13 years to build up $100,000 in the account with an annual collection of $7,600.
A charge of 10 cents and a yearly income of $15,200, would have taken almost seven years to raise the money. With the 10-cent charge it would have taken approximately 18 months to cover the initial needed repairs and it would have taken almost three years at a charge of 5 cents per gallon.
Reinhart said by charging 15 cents initially — an amount that can be reviewed annually — during the first year, enough money should be built up in the fund to repay the department’s initial repairs. The 15-cent additional charge is expected to generate $22,800 for the system annually.
“It was felt that the initial 15 cents was necessary to reimburse the MVGT fund as soon as practicable,” said Reinhart, explaining the Ohio Constitution requires the MVGT fund to be used only for road and bridge expenditures and not to subsidize any other agencies operations.
“To replace the five dispensers that are currently 23-years-old (two have two hoses for a total of seven locations to fill up) will cost $37,000 and we have one down now that is not repairable,” Reinhart said.
“The gasoline dispenser outside the gates for most all of the other 14 agencies has had over 1 million gallons dispensed through it. All seven dispensers have pumped 2.6 million gallons since 1990.
“Because of that situation, we may need to keep the 15 cents for more than one year, but that will be a decision made during the budget process,” he said.
Auglaize County Auditor Janet Schuler set up a special account within the Engineer’s Office’s funds so all receipts and disbursements will be tracked and audited annually by the state.
Reinhart also plans to make a yearly report to county commissioners during the annual budget process, at which time he will set the upcoming year’s fuel charge based upon projections of need.