Fleet Efficiencies Sprang From Local Task Force, State Board

Last month, the city of Jamestown received some national press on their efforts to centralize the city’s vehicle and equipment fleet in order to be more efficient, which, over time, will save money.

With two articles printed in Government Fleet Magazine, a national magazine dedicated to serving the needs of public sector fleet management, and the implementation of a few fleet management cost-saving measures, the time invested by city officials on the idea of centralizing vehicles and equipment is starting to pay off. However, saving money through efficiencies and receiving national attention for finding a new way to save tax payer money didn’t happen overnight.

The roots of how to fund the idea of creating a centralized city fleet started back in December 2013 when the city applied to be included in the state Financial Restructuring Board For Local Governments program, which pledged up to $5 million per municipality participating in the program for creating cost-savings initiatives.

However, the idea of finding a more cost-effective way to handle vehicles and equipment started with the creation of the Joint Task Force on Efficiency and Cost Reduction by Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, in November 2014. The task force consisted of staff and board members of the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities and city administrators and members of the Jamestown City Council.

At the time the task force was created, Teresi set goals for them to accomplish: review cost-saving measures suggested by the BPU, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier for city government and take an in-depth look at the structure and cost of services being delivered by the five utilities at the BPU.

Also goals include: reviewing the possibility of consolidating customer service operations to lessen redundancy; reviewing the possibility of consolidating legal services; and to analyze the revenue sharing between the BPU’s electric and water divisions toward the city’s general fund.

In the first year of the task force, which met for the first time in January 2015, only the first goal was accomplished. The task force met a total of 10 times during the next 15 months, meeting for the last time in March 2016. During all of those meetings, which were very contentious with the two entities — BPU and city officials — placed in a situation where they were virtually pitted against one another, one idea the group reached a consensus on was the idea of a centralized fleet that had been proposed by Patrick Monaghan, city fleet manager.

Monaghan, who proposed the idea in January 2015, said a centralized fleet would have all the BPU, public works, police, fire and parks departments vehicles and equipment managed from the same location. At the time, Monaghan managed the vehicle and equipment fleet for the city’s fire, parks, and public works departments. However, he didn’t handle the BPU’s vehicles and equipment. Also, the police department was handling maintenance of their own vehicles because of the service agreements they had with the car dealerships where they purchased the automobiles.

In February 2016, Monaghan told The Post-Journal that fleet consolidation would free several city administrators from having to worry about when they need to replace a vehicle or repair a broken down automobile or piece of equipment. He said the centralized fleet management system brings more efficiency, smoother operation and consistency to the process that is currently being handled by several departments.

In September 2015, city officials formally submitted a proposal to the state Financial Restructuring Board for the funding to hire the fleet consultant. Following the proposal submission, a year past with city officials hearing no word from the state about whether they would receive funding to hire Mercury.

To make matters worse, the 1990s-era software city officials were using to managed vehicles and equipment stopped working. In September 2016, the council approved entering into an agreement with Collective Data Inc. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to purchase fleet management software for $29,900. City officials also approved an agreement with Dell Inc. of Round Rock, Texas, for a serve and workstations for the fleet management software in an amount not to exceed $9,500 and with CDW of Vernon Hills, Ill., for a backup unit for the fleet management software in an amount not to exceed $600. City officials approved using $40,000 from the 2016 contingency fund to pay for the fleet management software.

Following the approval for new software, city officials finally received good news from the state in October 2016 when the Financial Restructuring Board approved $58,000 to hire Mercury for them to conduct a consolidation analysis and develop an implementation plan for fleet management services.

A little more than a year after hiring Mercury, Monaghan presented the report in January to the council. Monaghan said recommended action items in the report include updating fleet management software, creating a new fleet management structure, institute a chargeback system for each customer department, having a larger maintenance facility and adding personnel.

Monaghan said action items city officials have already taken includes updating fleet management software, which they did in 2016; and improving parts inventory management, maintenance shop workflow and preventative maintenance.

One of the recommendations in the report is for city officials to create a new fleet services management structure. As part of making the city’s fleet more efficient, Monaghan said they will be abolishing the maintenance division because it is outdated. However, no staff will be eliminated during this process.

Under the new fleet structure, city officials hope to eliminate underused/duplicate vehicles; share more nonspecialized vehicles and equipment, which includes light-duty vehicles; implement a new vehicle and equipment turnover program; and increase leverage with original equipment manufacturers for after-sales service and support.

Monaghan said vehicles and equipment will always be essential to providing services to city residents and by centralizing operations it will increase efficiencies and allow a holistic approach to fleet management. He said there is little to no cost to initiate the new fleet management structure and they can build and phase in the centralization.

Since the city was approved by state officials to participate in the state Financial Restructuring Board program in March 2014, city officials have been granted $2,363,000 to fund programs to cut costs. Along with the $58,000 for the Mercury fleet management report, the city has received $1.5 million for the incentive and new health care subsidy for Medicare eligible city retirees; $555,000 for street and parking ramp LED light conversion project; and $250,000 for debt service.