Report shows government employees skip paid-for vehicle service visits

Results of a study of Augusta’s fleet management operations show many government workers don’t follow maintenance schedules for their taxpayer-funded vehicles.

 

Service requirements – typically an oil change and routine maintenance every 5,000 miles or six months – are “inconsistently followed” by departments, resulting in an estimated $100,000 in additional repairs each year from driver error or abuse.

The finding was part of a study by former city auditor Cherry Bekaert to help determine whether bringing fleet maintenance in-house could save Augusta money.

The local government has a big fleet – 1,045 vehicles and 1,107 pieces of large equipment – serviced by contractor First Vehicle Services, at a cost last year of $2.9 million, according to a report from the company. Labor, at $1.9 million, constituted the bulk of expense, followed by parts at $497,474.

Commissioners who attended a Thursday fleet management work session were dismayed that employees weren’t taking their vehicles in for routine maintenance.

“We’re paying $3 million for service and we’re not making them take them in?” Commissioner Marion Williams asked.

Earlier this year, Central Services Director Takiyah Douse reported the city would trim $167,393 from its maintenance contract by removing 58 underutilized vehicles from the service contract.

Other findings from the audit showed that fleet vehicles are both duplicated and underutilized across various city departments.

Williams, a longtime proponent of bringing fleet maintenance back in-house, along with two other commissioners praised Fire Chief Chris James’ 2014 move to bring maintenance of fire vehicles back in-house.

“We can do it in-house as well,” Williams said. Commissioners Andrew Jefferson and Sammie Sias said they agreed.

James said he’d nearly halved his 2015 budget for contracted maintenance of $1.3 million to come in at $711,000, while obtaining parts on occasion at less than First Vehicle’s contracted prices.

The numbers don’t currently include eight KME “prototype” fire trucks purchased the year before that have required frequent repairs and prompted the city to terminate a purchase agreement for more of the trucks.

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Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

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