Parish using GPS to track vehicles

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 3, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – St. John officials announced this week that they will be using GPS tracking equipment to get an idea of where parish vehicles drive throughout the day, said a spokesman for the parish.

St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said the parish recently outfitted 54 of the parish’s 75 vehicles with the global positioning devices, which will show current locations of vehicles, where the vehicles have gone throughout the day, and how long the vehicles have been out on the road. He said it is a positive initiative designed to ensure the safety of parish employees and increase productivity.

“It is certainly something that will help us keep overtime down,” said Boe. “We want to make sure that parish tax dollars are going to the right spot.”

The parish will use a computer software program linked to each GPS device to keep an eye on everyday usage of parish vehicles. Boe said Hubbard, Chief Administrative Officer Pat Mc Topy and department directors will have access to the program via the World Wide Web.

Boe said the program is a trial phase of a larger parish initiative, but the move stirred up concerns by Parish Council members, who questioned the fairness of the vehicle selection.

The issue was brought to the public by District 6 Councilman Ronnie Smith during Tuesday’s council meeting. Smith questioned the administration about their selections and asked if supervisors would also be included.

“It is an issue of fairness,” said Smith Tuesday. “Certain people should not be allowed to roam free without GPS if other employees have them.”

Dale Wolfe, Councilman-at-Large for Division A, also took exception to the initiative and asked the administration if the parish could wait for council approval of the GPS policy. Parish President Bill Hubbard said it was too late for that because the devices have already been put in the vehicles.  

Boe said the administration took every step to make sure the tracking systems were installed fairly with regard to rank and race and said the final selections were determined by the heads of the specific departments included in the first phase. He said supervisors and foremen were included along with regular road crew.

Boe also said that the parish did not need council approval for purchase and installation since it was classified as a normal material purchase for the parish. He said the devices cost $279 a piece. The parish installed the systems on 20 vehicles in the Public Works Department, 32 vehicles in the Utilities Department and two vehicles in the Recreation Department.

Boe said the trial phase, which includes roughly 60 percent of all parish vehicles, will last a year. After that time, the parish will re-evaluate the system to see if all moving vehicles would require GPS.

“We have tractors in the parish that stay out cutting grass from seven in the morning to five in the evening,” said Boe. “They might eventually need GPS too.”

The St. John School System uses a similar program to keep track of their school buses.