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Police to drive leased vehicles

By: Michelle Miller-Carl Journal News Editor
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The city is looking at whether leasing certain police department vehicles might save some money. The police department will lease two non-pursuit vehicles as part of a pilot program to study if leasing is cost effective. The program was approved by the City Council Monday night. A rental company estimates the city could save $221,000 by increasing its leased fleet to 20 vehicles over the next 10 years. In addition to cost benefits, leasing would result in a newer fleet with fewer air-polluting emissions, said Capt. John Ruffcorn in his report to the council. Instead of buying two vehicles that were scheduled to be replaced in the 2010-11 budget at a cost of $25,000-$35,000 each, those will be leased from Enterprise Fleet Services, a division of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The five-year lease, including maintenance, would cost $23,770 to $31,605 per vehicle. Currently, the police department has a fleet of 14 city-owned vehicles including an evidence van, a pickup, a utility truck and parking enforcement scooter. Average age of vehicles in this fleet is eight years with an average mileage of 57,000. At the end of fiscal 2010-11, the council would analyze the program and consider expanding the number of cars leased. A competitive search for a fleet services provider would follow. Councilman Bill Kirby was concerned that including maintenance costs in the lease agreement would eventually put the city maintenance department out of business. Ruffcorn said pursuit-related vehicles and firefighting trucks would keep city maintenance workers busy. City Manager Bob Richardson added that staff may be “changing roles over time” to improve efficiency. The council approved the pilot program 4-0. Councilman Keith Nesbitt was not present. The council also heard the results of the 2008-09 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report Monday. The report prepared by external auditors details a $650,000 drop in general fund revenues in the last fiscal year. City Administrative Services Director Andy Heath said this was due in part to a 19 percent sales tax decline and 31 percent decrease in development-related revenue. But the city was able to save $580,000, he said, through vacant positions, salary reductions and reduced departmental budgets. “The city has been responsive to the downturn in revenue, it’s just sometimes we don’t know what the decrease in revenue will be until it’s fully realized,” Heath said. The city also took a $716,000 hit in general fund reserves, lowering the reserves total to $3.4 million. Mayor Bridget Powers said city reserves have been important in helping the city get through the current economic situation and maintain strong bond ratings with its creditors. However Kirby wasn’t happy with those numbers. “The reserve may look nice, but I think it’s low,” he said. Michelle Miller-Carl can be reached at michellem@goldcountrymedia.com. In other business Monday night: City Clerk Joe Labrie swore in new Deputy City Clerk Amy Lind. The council approved $16,580 in Department of Homeland Security funds for installation of three additional in-car cameras for Auburn Police Department vehicles. The department received two cameras last year, also through homeland security funds. The council approved an update to the Auburn Municipal Airport Capital Improvement Plan. The city must submit an update each year to be eligible for $150,000 in annual FAA funding. Projects to be completed this year are a pavement sealcoat on the runway and installation of taxiway lighting. The council established an ad-hoc committee of Councilmen Mike Holmes and Keith Nesbitt on uses for the city-owned Brewery Lane property in Old Town. The committee would make a recommendation to council by March 31.