COLORADO – Rising gas prices will force Mesa County and Grand Junction to spend nearly 50 percent more this year than last to fuel patrol cars, heavy equipment, and other government vehicles, according to the Grand Junction Sentinel.

The spike has led agencies to implement fuel-saving practices, ranging from ramping up vehicle maintenance programs to purchasing hybrid vehicles.

The county and city also are contemplating converting methane gas currently burned off at the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant into compressed natural gas to run certain vehicles.

The county originally expected to spend $890,000 this year on fuel but will end up spending around $1.3 million, a 46 percent increase over last year. The fuel budget for next year is $1.4 million.

The city will shell out nearly $1 million for fuel this year — about 43 percent more than the roughly $700,000 it expected to spend. Next year’s fuel budget will be about $900,000.

The county and city are taking steps to save gas, such as encouraging employees to save fuel by not idling their vehicles, not braking or accelerating quickly, driving at or below the speed limit, and avoiding carrying excess weight. Both said they also are emphasizing regular vehicle maintenance to ensure tires are properly inflated and air filters are cleaned.

Also, the city purchased three hybrid cars that are being used by a fire code-enforcement employee in the Fire Department, a code-enforcement officer in the city’s Neighborhood Services Division, and an officer in the Police Department’s traffic unit.

City officials also are scrutinizing each vehicle when it needs to be replaced.

The city could further reduce its dependence on fuel by collecting methane gas produced at Persigo and turning it into compressed natural gas. Officials are currently researching how to remove the odor from the gas, as well as the cost to install the infrastructure and what the payback might be.