BRICK – Are Brick employees permitted to take township vehicles home with them?
This was a question raised by resident and former council member Jim Fozman during the most recent Township Council meeting.
“I understand that for essential personnel, this is normal,” Fozman said during public comment. “I was in Toms River…and I saw a township car shooting all the way down, this was about four or five o’clock,” he said.
“How many people in the town take home vehicles that are non-essential?” Fozman asked. “Is it Recreation? Is it Parks? Who gets the vehicles? Because gas cost is way up.”
Township Business Administrator Joanne Bergin said that generally, take-home township vehicles are provided to any staff member who is expected to respond quickly when they are at home.
For example, the head of Recreation has a take-home vehicle because he is someone who is expected to respond in the evenings and on weekends since many Recreation events take place during those hours – more regularly than not, Bergin said.
“He is the one who would be expected to respond if there was a problem at one of the sites or he was needed as a supervisor,” she said.
Also, the Department of Public Works supervisor has a take-home vehicle, as does the supervisor of the road crew because there are a lot of road crew issues that occur regularly, such as tree limbs falling, road flooding and more, Bergin said.
“Generally, we wouldn’t want to lose time having to switch out a vehicle if there’s a tree in the middle of the road,” she said in response to questioning from Fozman. “Most of the trucks carry enough equipment to get them through the moment.”
Fozman asked if Code Enforcement officers have take-home vehicles. Bergin said they do not.
“I saw one in somebody’s driveway, that’s why I’m asking,” Fozman said.
Bergin said that during a special roof project at Town Hall, much of the parking lot was closed off and the administration allowed some employees to take township vehicles home “in a very structured fashion” to cut down on the number of township vehicles that park in the municipal lot.
“I know the police chief has a township vehicle, and the guys who are on SWAT, I understand that…but I see quite a few vehicles in driveways in our town that don’t look like they’re essential personnel,” Fozman said.
Bergin said it’s not only those who are considered essential personnel who have the take-home vehicles.
“I’m essential personnel, and I don’t take a township vehicle home,” she said. “It’s on the basis on if it is expected that you would be responding in the middle of the night or at an odd time when response is of the essence.”
Councilwoman Andrea Zapcic said that when she was a full-time Brick Township employee from 1998-2004, and served as the Recreation supervisor she declined the offer of a take-home vehicle, even though she often worked in the off-hours.
She said she turned the offer down because she was driving her school-age children around, stopping at the grocery store and she said she didn’t want the township “to have to handle complaints such as what we did tonight.”
Zapcic said that when an employee has a take-home vehicle, it becomes their primary mode of transportation, and they don’t run home and switch out their own car to run errands.
“When you’re out sick, it’s parked in your driveway. On the weekends when you’re not working, it’s parked in your driveway. If you have a random vacation day in the middle of the week, it’s parked in your driveway,” Zapcic said. “So there are plenty of reasons why township take-home vehicles might be seen in places you don’t expect them.”
After the meeting, Bergin clarified that not all essential workers take home vehicles.
“We approve take home vehicles for those who are expected to respond regardless of the time of day and to be able to assist immediately based on the reason for the call out,” she said.
“Fifty-four of our 433 full-time employees are approved to take home the Township vehicle assigned to them. Of those, seven are civilian employees and the remaining 47 are police personnel. Two of the seven civilian employees only take a vehicle home in the summer months based on their jobs (the lifeguard supervisor and marina supervisor).”