The county currently owns about 250 vehicles, which consume about 225,000 gallons of fuel a year.
"So we're looking for ways to try to reduce our fuel use, reduce our carbon impact and try to find ways to manage that better," Public Works Director Kevin Callahan said at the Wednesday, Jan. 16 council work session.
The county has already taken one step toward that end by talking to each department head about what could be downsized.
For example, while most departments purchase four-wheel-drive vehicles because of the inclement weather, the health department agreed to switch from Ford Explorers to Ford Escapes for the 2012 budget year purchases.
"The whole area is ripe for change," Callahan said. "As you know, the federal government has adopted new fuel efficiency standards, which means every year when more vehicles come out, they are going to be becoming more and more efficient. We're going to see more hybrids and we're going to see different types of technologies become available."
Taking into consideration the national trends and fuel costs, the staff has been looking at what would be appropriate for Summit County.
"Eighty-eight percent of the fleet we have right now are either pick-up trucks or sports utility vehicles," he said. "So we're looking at whether or not every one of those vehicles needs to be in that class or not, and whether we can move towards sedans which are considerably more fuel efficient."
Callahan proposed to the council that vehicles approved this year go through a more intensive process to determine if they are appropriate for the functions they serve.
Callahan added that staff is also looking at moving toward CNG as they replace vehicles.
"We believe that CNG has quite a bit of benefit to us in terms of reducing our carbon impact," he said.
One way the county is considering transitioning to CNG is converting current county vehicles to CNG.
Paul Hydok, owner of EnergyWise, a company that both converts vehicles to natural gas and develops fueling stations, suggested his company finance the county's conversions to CNG with no out-of-pocket expenses to the county.
In return, the company would build a fueling station and charge the county a surcharge on the fuel until the conversions are paid off.
"In the worst-case scenario, the surcharge you pay will be $1 less than the price of gasoline," Hydok said. "So we would look at the anticipated gallon use for the vehicles and run it through a model. As we reach certain bench points, we'll start reducing the overall surcharge until we reduce it back to the retail price."
Councilmember Chris Robinson said he wouldn't be opposed to accelerating the turnover of vehicles.
"That will allow us to convert to CNG at the same time," Robinson said. "It seems like the payback is very fast. It's a double payback. You're getting rid of the guzzler you didn't need and now you're using a fuel that's 30 or 40 percent cheaper."