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Augusta Commission members raise concern over cost of maintaining city vehicles

Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013 8:46 PM
Last updated Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 1:29 AM
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Some Augusta Commission members want to take a hard look at the price of maintaining the city’s fleet.

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Mechanic Brian Brown repairs a fire engine at Richmond County Fleet Management. Vehicle repairs, such as voltage regulator work for county fire engines, are currently outsourced on a county contract.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Mechanic Brian Brown repairs a fire engine at Richmond County Fleet Management. Vehicle repairs, such as voltage regulator work for county fire engines, are currently outsourced on a county contract.

Several raised questions Monday about extending the decade-old contract with First Vehicle Services after a former employee made allegations that the firm makes unnecessary repairs.

“When you’ve got a fox in the henhouse, some eggs are going to go missing,” said Commissioner Marion Williams, a longtime proponent of bringing the service back in house.

First Vehicle’s proposed price for a one-year contract renewal is $3.7 million. Adding in noncontract work will bring the total annual price to approximately $5.5 million, said Ron Crowden, the city fleet manager since 2001.

“Why are we doing what we do, and what’s the quality control, with the issues we have going on?” said Commissioner Donnie Smith.

Smith said he had learned about a vehicle whose bumper cover was replaced for a small scratch after going in the shop for an oil change.

“There appears to be a financial gain by finding things that need to be fixed that were not requested by the people that put it in the shop,” Smith said.

Crowden defended the performance of the company, which employs 47 people to maintain the city’s 2,255-vehicle fleet. He said vehicle repairs and maintenance are performed based on a schedule. Each time a car goes in for any service, it gets a bumper-to-bumper inspection. Noncontract work is performed when a vehicle exceeds its scheduled lifespan, which is measured in miles or years and depends on the vehicle.

Each oil change, performed at the manufacturer’s specified intervals, costs the city $12.63. Noncontract work, such as repairs caused by driver abuse, is performed at $22.79 an hour.

“No place in Augusta are you going to find that rate,” Crowden said. “I would put my guys before any guys in Augusta.”

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle questioned why Crowden increased the fire department’s maintenance allocation by about $240,000 this year, when the department didn’t add any vehicles.

“We have to look out for how we can reduce costs and the mishandling of funds,” he said. “What kills me is it’s in the contract to take the wheels off every time,” when wear on today’s disc brakes is often predictable and plainly visible, Guilfoyle said.

Guilfoyle and Smith want to put the contract back out for bids. Williams wants to hire an employee to create an in-house shop to maintain vehicles.

Savannah, Ga., brought its $3.7 million annual maintenance program in house and lowered its cost to $1.5 million, Williams said.

Columbia County Emergency and Operations Division Director Pam Tucker said Columbia County maintains its entire fleet of about 800 vehicles and machines with an in-house operation whose total annual budget is $790,000. The shop also services vehicles for the city of Harlem under a separate contract and could take on additional contracts, Tucker said.

Augusta Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier said he trusts Crowden’s judgment about repairs.

“I’ve found him to be very conscious of saving money,” Wiedemeier said. “He looks after our money like it was his own.”

City Administrator Fred Russell said he was OK with sending the contract back out for bids but questioned the wisdom of bringing the work back in house.

“I think there’s probably room for improvement with everything,” Russell said. “If we do it internally and we don’t like it, it’s harder to fire them.”

Crowden said in-house maintenance work was possible, but bringing parts acquisition under city procurement would be tedious.

“If we could keep our current technicians, we could do that job, but if you’re looking for efficiency, the government’s not known for efficiency,” he said. “I think repairs would take longer.”

Comments (15) Add comment
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itsanotherday1
43639
Points
itsanotherday1 09/11/13 - 11:02 pm
5
1
Marion just wants more jobs

Marion just wants more jobs for his constituents. If Crowden's rates are accurate, that is CHEAP. No way the city can do their own oil changes for $13 when employee wages and benefits are included.

rebellious
20896
Points
rebellious 09/12/13 - 12:17 am
8
2
We don't want to change the world

We just want to change your oil.
Williams wants to hire an employee to create an in-house shop to maintain vehicles. Track Snacks all over again. Maybe Fleet Sweets will be the name of this enterprise.

Realisticly, this ain't rocket science. With any effort, there are surely Fleet Maintenance organizations which have developed matrices which consider the age of vehicle, miles driven, etc and can calculate a cost to maintain.

We need a city administrator who manages at this level. Oh, wait, I forgot.

nocnoc
43370
Points
nocnoc 09/12/13 - 05:49 am
4
0
Old enough to remember IN house services

at the city garage on Board st. just pass the R&R and 15th and the RCCI / Mack Lane locations.

Then the commissioners farmed it out saying it was cheaper.

Despite ARC cutting hours and staff over the years due to diminishing tax revenues. Now Mr. Williams would have us come full circle, hire in-house people and add gradually add more ARC employees and overhead.

On the other hand.
Mr. Guilfoyle and Mr. Smith want to see if the Contracted work is being delivered at the best price it can be, by putting it back out for bids.

Lets see..... ummmmmmmmmmmm!
I go with rebid the contract when it comes up for renewal and see if the services and prices get better.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 09/12/13 - 07:07 am
2
0
Heaven forbid ARC should do any maintenance. What is that?
Unpublished

Heaven forbid ARC should do any maintenance. What is that?

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 09/12/13 - 07:08 am
2
0
ARC believes in "run to failure" management of assets.
Unpublished

ARC believes in "run to failure" management of assets.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 09/12/13 - 07:08 am
2
0
Bid, bid, bid, bid, do I hear another bid, going once...........
Unpublished

Bid, bid, bid, bid, do I hear another bid, going once...........

Riverman1
84887
Points
Riverman1 09/12/13 - 07:31 am
3
2
Private enterprise and

Private enterprise and capitalism is the best method for anything to do with work and money.

dsmith46
35
Points
dsmith46 09/12/13 - 07:55 am
3
0
FLEET MANAGEMENT

I've worked with the city for many years and think that Ron and First are doing a really good job. We receive reminders when our vehicle needs service which prompts us to check the miles and if we see they are right, take it in for service. I have never had them do any work that was not requested. Perhaps our commissioners are forgetting all the parts, inventory and gas that went missing and prompted getting a contractor to handle maintenance and going to the fleet credit card system. This gives the employees the responsibility of keeping track and getting the cheapest gas to save on their department's budget. I know that what First charges my departmrnt for an oil change doesn't come close to the $69.00 I pay Jiffy Lube. I wish I had access to their services for my private vehicles.

nocnoc
43370
Points
nocnoc 09/12/13 - 08:44 am
2
0
dsmith46 reminded me of something from many years ago.

How a few county employees figured out how to game the system and purchased vehicles of the similar makes and models. That way they would have a supply of replacement parts as the need required for their POV.

my.voice
4860
Points
my.voice 09/12/13 - 09:04 am
3
1
Good ole Augusta leadership.

Good ole Augusta leadership. Establish checks and balances AFTER the fox leaves the hen house. Reminds me of..........the TEE Center?

Riverman1
84887
Points
Riverman1 09/12/13 - 09:19 am
3
1
Give commissioners free oil

Give commissioners free oil changes and routine maintenance to go along with their free gas in their private vehicles and every thing will be hunky dory.

grinder48
1975
Points
grinder48 09/12/13 - 09:48 am
0
1
GRU Buses
Unpublished

While they're not city vehicles, has anyone else noticed all the GRU buses on Walton Way headed downtown and going between ASU campus on Walton Way and ASU on Wrightsboro Rd? They're always EMPTY! More azzizz trying to act like the big time by wasting taxpayer money! Ridiculous ...

harley_52
23608
Points
harley_52 09/12/13 - 11:06 am
2
1
"Private enterprise and capitalism....

....is the best method for anything to do with work and money."

True, but that's not what we have here, is it?

Here we have a government spending tax payer dollars, not taxpayers spending their own dollars.

We don't have a buyer and a seller making an arms length transaction, where both parties seek the best price achievable from their own perspective.

What we have here is a private party dealing with an entity who has no skin in the game. A government that's spending someone else's money, not their own.

The Augusta/Richmond County government, like most other governmental bodies, has demonstrated a need for close supervision and it often doesn't get it.

Sweet son
10535
Points
Sweet son 09/12/13 - 11:33 am
0
0
Don't recreate an in house department

No way Marion! Besides why do you think there would not be a fox in a government henhouse? Happens all the time!

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month!

Know the symptoms of this deadly disease!

GnipGnop
12261
Points
GnipGnop 09/12/13 - 12:47 pm
1
0
So is this code talk for

Someone's buddy or family member owns a garage or needs a job?

thauch12
6739
Points
thauch12 09/12/13 - 02:21 pm
4
0
Wait a minute...

So Columbia County can maintain their fleet for under $1000 a year per vehicle, but it costs Richmond County $2400 to do that same thing...something doesn't add up here.

harley_52
23608
Points
harley_52 09/12/13 - 02:42 pm
3
0
"Smith said he had learned about a vehicle....

....whose bumper cover was replaced for a small scratch after going in the shop for an oil change."

This either was, or wasn't, in accordance with the requirements of the contract. Which?

If the contract was written poorly and/or managed sloppily, it is going to cost more than if it is well written, defines carefully what is required of the contractor, and managed carefully to insure he performs.

It is probably much cheaper to contract the work, but only if the city/county is capable of writing and managing the contract. I doubt they are capable of either and therein lies the problem(s).

tulip1180
4
Points
tulip1180 09/12/13 - 04:06 pm
2
0
How is bringing maintenance in house

How is bringing maintenance in house going to save the county money?? Aren't the employees of First already local citizens? Wouldn't they still need to be paid, which will include county benefits? It appears like First has experience in this line of work and this contract is working, (from what information I have been able to obtain they have been here for 10 years) unlike the bus contractors that were just asked to leave. If they were not performing why would they have not been asked to leave before now?

oldredneckman96
5095
Points
oldredneckman96 09/12/13 - 04:48 pm
2
0
Driver Abuse.
Unpublished

"Noncontract work, such as repairs caused by driver abuse, is performed at $22.79 an hour". OK I wish I could get a rate that low. My question is does the abusing driver pay that or do the tax payers? There is a question for the AC to follow and report.

rational thought trumps emotion
2558
Points
rational thought trumps emotion 09/12/13 - 09:20 pm
2
0
Columbia County is smart in

Columbia County is smart in the fact that they sell or transfer used vehicles prior to 100,000 miles with the exception of large fire department vehicles. They sell their Sheriff’s vehicles between 80,000 and 100,000 miles for various reasons to include that they will obtain more money for the vehicle, problems occur more frequently after that many miles and the upkeep greatly increases.

From the article, you can easily see that $2,000,000.00 are non-covered expenses on vehicles that are old or have exceeded 100,000 miles and Richmond County could save a great deal in the long run by replacing these vehicles. Many Sheriff’s vehicles far exceed 100,000 miles which causes a great deal of down time, safety concerns, increased operational, fuel usage and repair costs, and provides less income for the county when they are sold.

Look into the “inspection fee” to check each vehicle every time as this should be reduced or eliminated. Also, all non-covered work should have to be approved by an agency liaison for each department within the county.

They can probably do a far better job than the county taking over the business but at the same time there is a lot of room for improvement, including the commissioners spending the money up front for an outdated fleet of vehicles instead of sinking it into aging cars.

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