Ever the green warrior, County Judge Buddy Villines has yet another eco-friendly idea up his sleeve: a program that would teach county employees how to save gas through smarter driving techniques — what the hip kids call “hypermiling.” Common tactics include avoiding the urge to over-rev the engine when coming away from a stop sign or light, keeping tires properly inflated, coasting on hills, and staying at or below the speed limit. The county program will likely avoid the ever-more-extreme hypermiling techniques that sprang up when gas hit $4 per gallon: Some particularly anal-retentive devotees claim they can increase gas mileage by more than 20 percent through questionable practices like turning off the engine while rolling in traffic, tailgating large trucks to decrease wind resistance, and avoiding braking on curves unless absolutely necessary.
Villines said that he got the idea for the program because the county-owned hybrid he drives has a display on the dash that shows real-time mileage information. He said that he found that by using gas-saving techniques, he could easily raise the mileage of a four-cylinder hybrid from four to five miles per gallon.
The program is still in the early planning stages, but Villines said that after it is introduced, completion of the course will be mandatory for anyone who drives a county-owned vehicle.
Y in the road
Rumors have been circulating lately about the status of the Westside YMCA at 4701 Sam Peck Road. Metropolitan YMCA of Little Rock CEO Ted Maxfield denied suggestions that the association has discussed closing the Westside Y, but added that, “Frankly the whole association has been in a little bit of a slow decline” and that its facilities were in “less than optimal shape.” Maxfield said association is about to do “long-range planning” to see how it can better serve the community. He said he'd “rule nothing in or out at this point.”
Three YMCAs operate in Pulaski County: the Westside Y Family Center and the G.W. Carver Family Branch in Little Rock and the Susan and Johnny Heflin YMCA Family Center in North Little Rock. Maxfield added that “it would be silly for us not to serve West Little Rock.” Noted: The association also owns property at Denny Road, several miles south of the Westside location, that ir has never developed.
Dotty Oliver, publisher of the Arkansas Free Press, explained to us the other day why her free weekly hasn't been in boxes around town lately. Oliver said that, “like many small business owners,” she's having problems getting credit. Her printer refused to extend a line of credit to get the latest issue printed, and wouldn't accept credit cards. Oliver said she's going to run the paper's copy on their website for the time being, but added that she hopes to return to printing a paper-and-ink edition in the near future. She said she's also taking some time to complete a book she's writing on her involvement with the Free Press, including a lawsuit filed against the paper some years back by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee.