County’s vehicle fleet said to be heavy by 20

Consulting firm says excess costing county hundreds of thousands, possibly six figures

By Jake Thomas, Columbian staff writer

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Clark County could save hundreds of thousands of dollars if it eliminates 20 vehicles from its fleet of hundreds.

That’s a key recommendation by a consulting firm the county council hired late last year that delivered the results of its study Wednesday.

“We typically find fleets with as much as 20 percent in excess vehicles,” said Steve Saltzgiver, a manager of Mercury Associates. “The fleet here, we found 3 percent.”

Saltzgiver told the council that the study determined that the county has 20 excess vehicles. Eliminating them would save the county $187,000 in the first year and a total of $777,000 through 2021. He said the study also identified another 10 vehicles the county may also want to consider eliminating. That reduction could push the county’s savings to more than a million dollars, he said.

If the council follows the firm’s recommendations, 15 of the 20 vehicles recommended for elimination will be those used for equipment services in Public Works Department.

The other five will come from other county agencies.

Originally, the Rockville, Md.-based firm recommended eliminating 146 vehicles. The largest recommended reduction included 52 of the 127 vehicles used by the sheriff’s office, which is the largest user of the county’s fleet. It also recommended eliminating 21 of 82 vehicles used by the Clark County Department of Public Works for operations and maintenance.

But Saltzgiver said that after consultants met with representatives from county agencies, the list of total vehicles recommended for elimination was whittled down to 20 vehicles. The firm’s recommendations call for eliminating just one vehicle each from the sheriff’s office and Public Works operations and maintenance, respectively.

In December, Clark County entered into a $79,620 contract with Mercury Associates to review the county’s policies and procedures governing how it manages its fleet, including how efficiently it replaces vehicles and ensures they are appropriate for employees’ needs.

Paul Lauria, president of Mercury Associates, explained to the council that the firm used metrics to report on the performance of the county’s fleet, its replacement plan and opportunities to “right-size” it.

Saltzgiver said that the county had already reduced its vehicle fleet from 800 to 758 by the time Mercury Associates began its study. He said the study didn’t look at vehicles that were “no-brainers,” such as patrol cars, street sweepers and others that were clearly valuable and utilized by the county.

He said that for the remaining 447 county vehicles, the firm examined how frequently they’re used and how critical they are to county operations.

Among other recommendations, Saltzgiver suggested the county update its procurement policies, which he said have been in place since the 1990s. He also recommended forming an advisory committee for fleet management and putting formal service level agreements in place with key county agencies.

Lauria noted that the county could save money on maintenance and repair costs if it were to shorten the replacement cycles for its vehicles.

Both Lauria and Saltzgiver said that as vehicles become more complicated and computerized a big challenge for places like Clark County will be making sure staff is adequately trained for repairs maintenance. They also said the county needs to take steps to ensure the next generation of fleet managers is prepared as more retire.

At the end of the session, council Chair Marc Boldt said that the next steps will involve forming a committee that will begin looking at how to implement the study’s recommendations.