Danedri Thompson
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With a fleet of 64 vehicles and one fleet service employee who oversees the maintenance of them, the city doesn’t have a vehicle replacement policy, according to Interim City Administrator Melissa Mundt.
“We have a target of (replacement) in 10 years,” she said. “But what we do mostly is look at a vehicle through its life and say, is it performing well? Is it having problems? What kind of problems?”
Mayor Dave Drovetta told council members during a May 16 meeting that the city’s vehicle replacement program was established so officials could plan for new cars.
“This process allows you to budget overtime in small bits every year,” he said.
At the time, city council members approved the purchase of a new, $20,955 pick-up to replace a 1998 Ford Ranger that is used to shuttle water and wastewater employees between public works facilities.
Council members Brian Broxterman, Kristina Harrison, and Dennis Pugh approved the purchase over the objections of members Larry Fotovich and Chris Morrow. However, Harrison said had the truck’s maintenance records been made available, she may have voted differently.
“This stuff wasn’t presented to us, we should’ve asked for it,” Harrison said of the records that The Gardner News obtained. “I should’ve asked more questions about this specific thing.”
During the meeting, city staff told council members the 13-year-old truck had 141,000 miles on it.
Morrow called it “gently used.”
“That may seem like a lot of miles to somebody that gets a new car every couple of years, but a lot of us have vehicles that last a whole lot longer than that,” Morrow explained of his vote against the purchase. “I drive a Toyota that has 179,000 miles, and that’s only eight years old.”
City staff also said approximately one-third, or more than $1,800 of the vehicle’s $5,664 in maintenance costs, had occurred in the last two years. Dave Greene, public works director, said the Ford Ranger had brake line replacement, computer system diagnostics and routine service in the last two years in maintenance.
But according to the truck’s maintenance log, only $642 had been spent in parts and maintenance on the truck. The remaining $1,200 in maintenance costs the city staff reported to the city included the cost of salary and benefits for the fleet services employee. In fact, over the 13-year lifespan of the Ford Ranger, more than half of its reported costs to the city council, $2,887, were in salary and benefits to the fleet service employee.
Morrow said he wishes he would’ve had the truck’s maintenance logs available to him during the council meeting.
“I’m disturbed to see this. I wish I would’ve had this to wave around at the city council meeting,” he said. “At first glance, it doesn’t seem like the truck was in need of replacement at this point. Just because we budgeted for it, isn’t a reason to replace it if it doesn’t need to be replaced.”
Initially, the purchase of the new truck was on the consent agenda, a portion of new business on the council agenda that is bundled and considered routine. Morrow said vehicle purchases probably don’t belong there.
Before the next council meeting, Morrow said he will be requesting information about the city’s fleet of vehicles and their uses.
He’d also like to review the “target” that says the city will replace vehicles after 10 years, and examine how the vehicles are used.
“There’s something to be said for letting professionals do their jobs,” Morrow said. “But oversight is I think something that we were elected to do as well as set policy and approve ordinances and resolutions and the budget.”
As council members consider next year’s budget this summer, replacing vehicles will likely be a topic of discussion. Currently there are 15 vehicles in the city’s fleet of 64 that are more than 10 years old. Another two will turn 10 in 2012.