The Wharton County Sheriff’s Office has been under the assumption they’ve been missing gas. It took the WCSO some time, but they settled on what happened in the case of the disappearing gas.
For the last two months, two tanks, a 2,000-gallon underground tank in El Campo and an above-ground 4,000-gallon tank in Wharton, have come up short. Before Wednesday, the two tanks have been short 730 total gallons of gas, per the WCSO calculations.
“We’ve been off 10-15-20 gallons,” Sheriff Shannon Srubar said last week. “Sometimes, it could be evaporation. Maybe the calibration isn’t perfect. Maybe an officer forgot to write they got five gallons one day, there’s all (kinds) of things that can contribute. But when you’re talking hundreds of gallons over several fill-ups, we’re questioning what’s going on.”
The WCSO on average uses $150,000 a year in fuel.
Wharton County’s gas contract is with Petroleum Traders in Victoria. However, the transportation is by Extreme Petroleum of Cypress.
The WCSO contacted Extreme Petroleum and were told, the tankers that deliver gas are electronically calibrated daily.
An Extreme Petroleum representative said their systems are certified by the State of California, which distributes their calibration equipment. The State of Texas also inspects the calibration equipment every year.
In search of answers, a local fuel company at Srubar’s request, made the WCSO a wooden homemade verification device.
During their most recent re-fill on Wednesday, the device worked and verified the amount of gas they received was actually going into the tanks. The WCSO had wondered what happening during re-fills, however, it turned out their own collaboration equipment could face some serious questioning.
While the case was solved, when Srubar started looking into the matter he began to look into how the WCSO gets their fuel as a whole.
Srubar has looked into a gas credit card system that issues a 1.8 percent rebate, which could net them upwards of $2,000 annually depending on fuel consumption (savings based on 1.8 percent of $150,000). The credit cards would also allow the WCSO to patronize local businesses.
The El Campo Police Department uses a credit card system and Srubar has been in contact with them to understand how it works.
The card system would allow the WCSO to catch issues before they become a problem, he said. Not only is each deputy given a password, they have to input the number of miles on the car, which would help them quickly track if cars are using too much fuel and might need service or, in worst cases, someone taking advantage of the card.
To make sure patrol cars and WCSO vehicles aren’t filling up at expensive gas stations, they would be asked to install a certain app on their phones to find the cheapest pumps in the area.
In theory, buying gas in bulk should save the county money. For the WCSO, the savings they get buying in bulk and using the two tanks are negligible when compared to filling up at gas stations once federal taxes are taken out, Surbar said.
The WCSO uses credit cards currently, but only on a small scale, for example, if a deputy has a patrol car and they aren’t in the county and need a fillup.
While the credit card system on a large scale would need to get commissioners’ court approval, it is something he’s looking into. Even if they do switch to the credit cards in the future, Srubar doesn’t want to get rid of the gas storage tanks. He would like to keep them active, as a backup and in case of disasters. In non-flooding emergencies that cut power, because the WCSO is on a generator, they can continue to pump gas.
Srubar believes the credit card program could be an agenda item for the next commissions’ court, given they review any and all contracts beforehand.