Chesterton Tribune



County mulls fleet lease vs purchase for Storm Water Department vehicles

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The Porter County Council questioned a fleet management agreement for the County’s Department of Development and Storm Water Management at its meeting Tuesday.

According to County Planner Robert Thompson, the agreement, with Enterprise, would mean the Development and Storm Water Management Department trades-in three current vehicles and gets five new vehicles--two trucks, two SUVs, and one sedan--in return. The trade-in value of the three older vehicles will be applied to the contract’s annual fee as a credit.

Per the agreement, Enterprise handles vehicle maintenance and rotates them out as they reach maximum resale value, replacing them with newer models. After the trade-ins, the five new vehicles would increase the Department’s fleet from seven vehicles to nine. “We’re getting new employees, so we’re going to need this,” Thompson said.

At its meeting last week, the Porter County Board of Commissioners expressed excitement at the potential cost savings from the agreement, which County Attorney Scott McClure said operates like a lease, though the County would own the vehicles involved. The Commissioners approved Thompson to enter the agreement at that meeting, but Thompson reported he hasn’t signed anything without the Council’s approval of the expense.

Thompson requested $9,000 from the Storm Water fund, $9,000 from the Cumulative Bridge fund, and $9,000 from the Plan Commission fund be earmarked for the upfront cost of the contract.

Council member Bob Poparad, D-1st, asked why the County shouldn’t just buy the new vehicles. Thompson said County vehicles are often used until they’re “rattling down the road” and have no resale value. The agreement ensures that the vehicles are traded-in once they reach a “sweet spot” of value and replaced with newer models. Thompson said the agreement could also help the County budget, since new vehicle costs for the Department can be boiled down to a known number.

The annual fee is $25,173, with an expected deduction of $19,000 for the three trade-ins, which Thompson said could bring the net cost down to $7,000 or less for the first year. “I’d be looking at $50,000 to get two new vehicles,” he added.

Council member Sylvia Graham, D-At-large, and Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-large, wanted more details on the contract. “I’m hearing three different terms,” Whitten said. “I’m hearing lease. I’m hearing lease purchase. I’m hearing pre-paid lease, and those are very different terms for contract purposes.”

“I was told by our attorney Scott McClure that for all intents and purposes, we will own the vehicles,” Thompson responded.

The Council voted to table the discussion so all members could review the contract. Council member Greg Simms, D-3rd, and Vice-president Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, were absent.

Poparad said, “I’m not against them getting vehicles, I just don’t know if leasing is in our best interest.”

Form 144s

In other Storm Water Department business, the Council approved a Form 144 increasing the pay for a highway engineering project manager position that’s been vacant for over a year. Thompson said he’s confident he can fill the position by offering $65,000 instead of $57,200. Thompson also noted the work from this position has been done by consultants in the lull, and filling it could save $100,000 per year in consultant fees.

County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke reported having a similar issue finding a qualified survey technician at the current rate of pay. The Council approved a Form 144 for Breitzke to upgrade that vacant position to Survey Manager, a position that will require ten years of surveying experience and pay between $55,000 and $57,000.

The Council approved another Form 144, a reduction in pay, requested by Facilities Director Ray Cloyd. Cloyd said he’s looking to hire a new custodian and wants to downgrade the pay to fit the current market. “I think $19.32 an hour is pretty high for a custodian, and I can get someone for $15 an hour,” Cloyd said.

Council on-the-Road

Whitten announced that the County Council is taking its meetings on the road for the next four months to give constituents an easier option for coming to a meeting or addressing the Council. Whitten said the Council will hit the Portage Lakefront for its June 25 meeting, and subsequently meet at the Porter County Airport and yet to be determined locations in Duneland and south county.

Whitten said he was excited to bring back the practice, which used to be tradition. “I think we had a really, really good response last time we did this.”



Posted 5/31/2019






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