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Published: Wednesday, 3/13/2002

Whose Jeep is it anyway?

Maybe one Jeep Liberty isn't enough for 12 city councilmen to share, particularly if their official duties involve more than coming and going to work.

The latest to-do over a new Jeep assigned to council reflects not only Council President Peter Ujvagi's monopoly of the vehicle but also the internecine feuding that is part of life in this civic body.

It's a little deal made into a somewhat bigger deal because City Council evidently has no policy for accounting for personal use of public vehicles. That is in stark contrast to Lucas County, and it is somewhat surprising given Mr. Ujvagi's awareness of sound business practices and avowed interest in fairness.

Another concern is whether making just two cars - an older Jeep Cherokee is also assigned to council - available for members to use to go to meetings during the day, in the evening, or on weekends, and for their staff to run errands, is sufficient for a body of 12 elected officials.

The numbers should decide whether it makes more sense for council to have available cars from city department fleets, excluding police and fire, or whether it would be less expensive to turn in all the cars and reimburse council members and their staffs for mileage.

The county's nine officials in elective offices all have their own cars. They are assessed for the miles they drive to and from work and that figure is added to their W-2 forms. And they pay 5.5 cents a mile for gas used on a personal business.

We don't suggest that every councilman should have his or her own city vehicle. This is still nominally a part-time job after all. But they need to find a way to better share what they've got.

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