Late Thursday night, the City of Houston ran into a problem at the pump.
It is best described in a memo obtained by KPRC2 Investigates, sent from HFD dispatch to fire crews citywide about midnight:
“Effective Immediately, all Voyager fuel cards are inoperable until further notice. All units must refuel at a City of Houston fuel site location (attached, or contact OEC for locations). If units receive an invalid odometer reading, they will need to contact Senior Captain XXXXX at 713-XXX-XXXX. The member must be present at the pump for the reset to take place. All members should make themselves aware of their current fuel capacity and consider the possibility of transport distances to Medical Center, etc., especially in morning traffic for outer laying fire stations. This consideration should also be made that this is a citywide issue and HPD, Solid Waste, and other city vehicles may also congest these fueling sites around our shift change. Please pass this information to the oncoming shift and contact your immediate supervisor and/or OEC for critical fuel situations.”
The President of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association reacted strongly, Friday.
“This is something that nobody should learn about at midnight. Either they didn’t know or they didn’t notify everybody. Somebody needs to be held accountable because there is no do-over in the emergency response business,” President of HPFFA Patrick Lancton said.
We contacted the Mayor’s office for comment, Friday.
Director of Communications Mary Benton responded with the following, noting that the problem was rectified quickly Friday morning.
“Last night, shortly after 10 p.m., Fleet Management began to receive notice that fuel transactions attempted by City employees with Voyager fuel cards were being declined.COH representatives contacted Voyager and learned that due to the recent spike in fuel costs, the City of Houston credit limit under the Voyager program had been exceeded. This resulted in the cards being deactivated without notice to the City. Please note that this was already in the process of being adjusted.HPD and HFD were advised of the situation late last night and encouraged to have their personnel use any of the City’s 67 fueling sites to cover fuel needs while the Voyager issue was resolved. Early this morning, FMD was able to make contact with Voyager representatives to reactivate the cards. The Finance department also issued payment on the latest Voyager invoice. The Voyager card is used as a backup by City emergency response personnel when fuel is needed and a City refueling site is not in close proximity. The City’s refueling sites should be the first choice for fuel needs because City fuel is much less expensive compared to fuel purchased at private fuel stations with the Voyager card.FMD employees were on standby last night and early this morning to cover any fuel issues with emergency vehicles. To my knowledge, none were reported. Also, know that all 67 of the City’s refueling sites are operational. Fuel inventories are normal. City personnel currently have access to City fueling locations as well as the Voyager program. One clarification: The next gas/Voyager payment is due on May 25th. The issue is truly on the credit limit that reached faster than expected due to the higher gas price, and this was in the process of being adjusted.”