County, with eye on savings, to start leasing most of its cars

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Oneida County is getting out of the new-car buying business.

County lawmakers on Wednesday approved a lease agreement with Enterprise Fleet Management to start providing vehicles for most county departments other than heavy-duty Department of Public Works equipment.

Legislators also approved a separate funds transfer so that Sheriff Rob Maciol can start leasing patrol and civil-division vehicles under a plan he believes will save the county at least a million dollars over 10 years.

Maciol said Enterprise gave a presentation at a meeting of the state Sheriffs’ Association and when he and his staff looked into it, they saw significant savings and noted many peer law enforcement organizations were doing the same. The Sheriff’s Office typically replaces about 10 percent of its 85-car fleet each year at a cost of around $330,000. With the annual lease costing $279,000, that’s about $50,000 saved, and Maciol said a like amount in maintenance costs is expected as well.

But it’s more than cost savings. Patrol cars take a beating because except for those based at field offices in Barneveld, Waterville and Camden are in almost constant use as deputies share them shift after shift.

“We run 12-hour shifts, and the cars out of headquarters at Oriskany, they go 24 hours a day. They get parked at 6. Someone else gets in ‘em at 6:05,” Maciol said.

“When it takes 10 years to cycle through a fleet, we end up with cars that have mileages approaching 200,000 miles. Vehicles become flagged not only for mechanical concerns but for safety concerns because they’re utilized in many cases for first-line response to incidents.”

Civil-division vehicles are typically used only during weekday business hours, so they have less mileage, Maciol said. A faster replacement schedule should leave them with less mileage and higher resale value.

Wednesday’s legislation for the Sheriff’s Office was approval of a transfer of the first year’s lease payment from an automotive account to a leasing account.

The fleet program with Enterprise Fleet Management covers 115 light-duty vehicles across eight departments. Non-sheriff vehicles include those used by county departments, ranging from Social Services case workers to District Attorney investigators to the Office for the Aging.

Enterprise and Acme Auto Leasing responded to a request for proposals from the county Purchasing Department and county attorney’s office, which together chose Enterprise as best fitting county needs and most economical.

In the past, some county departments arranged leases out of their own budgets, often without savings over private leases. County officials say this master lease deal will save 10 to 15 percent over existing purchasing and maintenance costs. Actual sheriff’s savings may be $1.27 million, according to the county.

Enterprise has similar agreements in place with 19 other New York counties.

County Executive Anthony Picente said in an interview that the savings may not strike many people as remarkable, but leasing gets at the inevitable rapid depreciation that’s the nature of car purchases.

“We’re putting a lot of mileage on those vehicles,” Picente said. “That’s a big cost for us and very little return.”

Not all county vehicles will be leased, particularly heavy-duty and specialized machines like snow plows. Public Works Commissioner Dennis Davis told the Board of Legislators Ways and Means Committee Wednesday that leasing would not likely be cost-effective compared to purchasing snow plows, which average 10 to 15 years of useful life.

In other matters, legislators on Wednesday approved a refinancing of $13 million in bonds arranged by county Comptroller Joseph Timpano estimated to save $800,000 thanks to reduced interest rates since the debt was taken on.

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