Yakima spends millions on gas for city vehicles

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Gas prices are averaging about $3.50 a gallon around Yakima. It's expensive. Yakima spends millions to keep city cars and trucks on the street. KIMA found out which departments spend the most, and what is expected to cost even more this year.

Filling your tank. For most families, a necessary evil. A pain shared by the city of Yakima.

"They come here all day long, all night long. 24/7," says Yakima Public Works supply specialist Stuart Petri.

Garbage trucks, police cars, parks and rec pickups.

Yakima couldn't give an exact amount paid per gallon, but the city spent about $2.2 million on fuel last year. That's down from the previous two years, in part due to lower gas prices.

Yakima expected to spend more in 2013, citing more police officers and added transit and garbage routes.

The transit department spent the most on gas in the city, followed by police. YPD says there not much officers can do to save on fuel.

"The amount of gas we spend is pretty much a function of what we have to do every day," said Capt. Jeff Schneider. "We have to respond to calls. We have to be all over the city."

At one point, when gas prices first started rising, YPD doubled up officers. That's not realistic now. It would mean fewer vehicles on patrol.

"It doesn't work for us."

Yakima operates four of its own gas stations for fill-ups. Each employee has two cards. One has a unique employee ID number. The second one operates kind of like a gas card. One card goes in, then the other, activating the gas pump.

The city tracks each employee's purchases, flagging anything unusual, and renegotiates its supply contract every five years.

Small measures by a city trying to keep a big budget item in check.

YPD acknowledges the new program that lets police officers take patrol cars home could increase the department's gas costs even more.