County should ask right questions first

Glynn County commissioners, going along with budgets presented by administrators and department heads, hit property owners with a tax increase this year.

They said the revenue is needed to offset the bite the still-recovering economy will take out of the county treasury. Property values remain down across the Isles.

This is a reminder to members of the county finance committee who voted Tuesday to recommend to the full commission that the county plunk out thousands of dollars to "experiment" with a new fuel for government vehicles - propane gas.

Members of the county staff want to ease into this. Their proposal is to convert just eight of the county's 320 vehicles to propane fuel. The county can achieve this with an initial investment of $48,000. That amount does not include the cost of setting up a fueling station.

The advantages, according to staff, is the lower cost of fuel - about $1.75 a gallon versus around $3.60 a gallon today - and the reduced wear and tear on the vehicle. Among other things, vehicles powered by propane gas require fewer oil changes.

There is another big plus, and that's its impact on the environment. Staff told commissioners that the emissions of a car or pickup truck can be reduced by as much as 70 percent by propane.

All of this sounds encouraging, of course. Who can argue with a less expensive and environmentally friendly fuel? No one can, except maybe the taxpayers, the people who will be footing the bill. But that will depend on how serious the county is about pursuing this and how feasible it would be to convert all vehicles, as well as how beneficial it would be to the taxpayers of this community.

It's one thing if this eight-vehicle conversion is something administrators, staff and commissioners feel confident - the key word being "confident" - will lead to the eventual replacement of gasoline and diesel to the benefit of taxpayers. It's altogether another matter, however, if this is only a whim - something the county just wants to try simply to say it did.

These are the kind of questions county commissioners should be asking before committing taxpayers to a major investment.