Montana Highway Patrol Has Spent Over $1.6 Million on Fuel
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The price of gas is going up once again almost every week, but if it’s tough on your family, just imagine the extra burden on the Montana Highway Patrol as their over 250 troopers travel the long highways of the state seven days a week and 365 days a year.
A Nearly 60 Percent Jump in Fuel Costs for MHP
KGVO News spoke to Sergeant Jay Nelson, Public Information Officer with the Montana Highway Patrol about the daunting task of keeping troopers on the road.
“The Montana Highway Patrol spent $1,646,989 on fuel for their patrol and response vehicles, a 58.6 percent increase from the previous fiscal year. That is a significant change. People need to understand that in the government world that we can’t adjust our budget, our budget is set, and so we have to do more with less.”
Nelson said it is simply out of the question to ask the Highway Patrol to restrict patrols or pick and choose which calls they will respond to.
“The last thing that (MHP Commander) Colonel Lavin wants to do is restrict our troopers to just sitting at the office and only responding to calls or limiting them in the amount of gasoline that they can have, so we're very fiscally conscious, however, we're not going to make the citizens feel the pinch.”
It's Not Just the Gas, it's Tires, Maintenance, and Cruiser Replacement
Nelson said every aspect of the Montana Highway Patrol’s budget has increased by double digits.
“There is not one product out there that we issue to our troopers that has gone down in price, and most of these products are going up in price, but more than that, they are going up in price in double digits,” he said. “I can give you another example. “Do you see our patrol cars out there? They're always visible. The MHP has experienced a 36 percent increase in the price of a patrol car in the last four years.”
More People; More Tourists; More Crime
Adding to the burden of increasing costs, Sergeant Nelson said the population in Montana has also increased significantly, along with the number of vehicles traveling on the state’s highways.
“Our state is drastically increasing in population,” he said “Our state is also drastically increasing in tourist traffic. So, when you have more tourists and you have more people moving into our state, we have to adjust on the law enforcement side. Unfortunately, 256 troopers for the population and the mileage that we're responsible for, is not near what we need to have to be effective.”
Nelson said another mitigating factor for the Montana Highway Patrol is the amount of illegal drugs being driven to and through Montana and the efforts to interdict those criminals and their shipments.