State agency weighs GPS devices for workers' cars
Published 4:45 pm, Wednesday, November 30, 2011
The agency has asked the state budget office to install GPS systems in the 800 vehicles used to assist clients throughout Connecticut. DCF believes the investment would result in $240,000 worth of efficiencies and also provide a safer working environment for employees and the people they serve.
"If there's a situation ... we can identify the location with precision," DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said Monday.
But the paperwork filed with the budget office focuses on the need to address bad driving habits. The one-page proposal states that the department cannot act on numerous complaints from the public because there is often little proof. DCF spoke with nonprofits that purchased GPS devices and not only addressed personnel issues but cut overtime and gas costs.
Beginning in 2008, Connecticut taxpayers have been encouraged through bumper stickers affixed to around 3,300 state vehicles to visit the fleet.ct.gov website and comment on workers' driving habits.
In May, Hearst Connecticut Media Group reported that only a handful of the 1,900 complaints filed over the past three years resulted in disciplinary action. Most employees denied any wrongdoing, and the investigations were dropped.
Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell in 2009 asked the Department of Administrative Services, which manages the fleet, including DCF's cars, to study the use of GPS devices. The agency concluded the devices "may" improve employee safety, client response and increase productivity and efficiency.
But due to the cost, about $600 per device and hundreds more for software, DAS recommended a pilot program using 15 vehicles from the departments of motor vehicles and consumer protection and the Judicial Branch. It never happened.
GPS, or Global Positioning System, is a network of satellites that can pinpoint the location of a signal transmitted by the device.
Donald DeFronzo, hired as DAS commissioner this year, said he had been unaware of DCF's latest proposal.
"If DCF wanted to proceed I'd think we'd need to phase this in," DeFronzo said, adding that the technology can be useful.
According to DAS' 2009 study, some other state governments that had been employing GPS technology were deciding to abandon it for cost reasons and because they did not have the staff to review and manage the programs.
But Jim Finley, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said Monday there is anecdotal evidence more cities and towns are looking at investing in GPS to ensure vehicles are used properly and efficiently.
In 2008, Bridgeport fired four city fire inspectors for spending workdays conducting personal business. The investigation included data obtained from GPS devices in their city-owned minivans. The city still uses GPS in some vehicles.
Any proposals are likely to receive pushback from state unions. DAS in 2009 concluded that GPS devices are not prohibited by collective bargaining agreements but may result in potential grievances or prohibited practice claims.
A state union spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.