Hamilton County officials hope to save on vehicle costs by growing a fleet leasing program in coming years.
The first step begins Wednesday, if the Hamilton County Commission approves a $119,000 agreement with Enterprise to lease 24 vehicles for a period of five years, or 60,000 miles apiece.
Gail Roppo, director of procurement and fleet management for the county, explained the details to county commissioners in a recent meeting.
"If we lease vehicles, there will be lower mileage when they get turned in, so we'll be getting more surplus value," Roppo said. "We'll have lower repair costs, lower routine maintenance costs and less need for loaner vehicles for people being concerned about having a vehicle to do their job."
The comprehensive fleet management plan calls for the county to replace its aging vehicles — likely 40 or so each year — through leases instead of purchasing new vehicles, she said.
While it will cost $595,000 to lease the initial 24 vehicles over five years, the net cost only amounts to $473,000 because of expected higher surplus values when the county disposes of them. In all, that comes to $150,000 in savings when compared to the $625,000 price tag to buy them outright.
Right now, the county has 166 vehicles with 60,000 miles or more on them.
Once fully transitioned to a leased vehicle footing, the county expects to cut annual repair costs by as much as $140,000 and reduce maintenance and repair services provided by the Hamilton County Highway Department shop, Roppo said.
Mayor Jim Coppinger assured commissioners and staff no county vehicle maintenance personnel would lose their jobs because of the lease vehicle game plan. Instead, reductions will happen only through normal attrition.
An interdepartmental task force evaluated findings and recommended the fleet program overhaul earlier this year, and county financial officers presented it to commissioners during 2018 budget workshops this spring. The initial scope of the research did not include the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.
Another part of the new fleet program calls for reducing the number of employee take-home vehicles, Roppo said. Take-home vehicles have been eliminated except for cases in which employees provide public safety, public services or operations support.
Some jobs may require an employee to get called out on the road at any time, day or night, Coppinger said.
Roppo said the county has already permanently reduced the overall size of its fleet by disposing of 21 take-home vehicles and six others, all of which have logged high mileage.
That move will save the county $45,000 a year in commuting fuel, maintenance and repairs, she said. In "soft savings," the county won't have to spend $675,000 to purchase new vehicles to replace them.
"I appreciate this initiative very much," Commissioner Tim Boyd said. "This is good stuff, Ms. Roppo. This is a good deal for the county."
Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.