City Staff and San Angelo Police Discuss Vehicle Maintenance and 'Mismanagement'
City Staff and the San Angelo Police Department met with members of the Vehicle Maintenance Division Wednesday in City Hall to look into the budgeting and billing process of one of the PD’s largest annual expenses. This was planned as part of an internal review of the SAPD expenses after the fact that the police exceed their budget every year by $600k or more at the previous Meet and Confer.
The meeting began with an overview of the monthly costs the SAPD incurs for services at the maintenance facility, as well as a description of what the maintenance agreement covers and where additional charges are applied.
Patrick Frerich, Assistant Director of Operations for the City and former Vehicle Maintenance Division Superintendant introduced the topic by explaining the division’s role as an internal service fund.
The money for the maintenance is budgeted on an annual basis, Frerich explained, and each sub-department pays a fixed amount each month for each of the vehicles being used. Those monthly fees cover all labor and scheduled maintenance on the vehicles, including things like oil and grease, he said.
The police department pays a fixed rate of $127 a month for patrol cars, $96 a month for admin cars and $68 a month for motorcycles. The monthly costs apply to all vehicles of those types and are not adjusted on the basis of vehicle age. Not included in the monthly fee is the price of parts, which are added to the bill at cost and must be figured into the budget in advance.
“Where we differ a little from the outside world…say [you have] a battery that’s bad, you replace the battery, and the car goes out, it comes back and we find out it was the alternator that’s bad,” Frerich says. “You are charged for a battery and an alternator, but you’re not charged additional labor for that. Whereas in the outside world, you’d come back and that business would say, ‘It’s going to be an additional $200 in labor to install the alternator on top of what you’ve already paid.’”
City of San Angelo Human Resources Director Lisa Marley explained that the base of the maintenance budget is figured simply by adding up the number of vehicles in each price category. “Then they have to—on top of that—estimate how many extra parts they’re going to need, because they’re going to have to come up with the money for that,” she explained.
Additional expenses are also applied when the police department purchases a new car and the equipment must be bought and installed, a process called a “make-ready”.
“When we get a car, we don’t order a police car from [the] Dodge house,” Sergeant Korby Kennedy explains. “It doesn’t come with stripes, it doesn’t come with lights on it, that’s all equipment that they have to put on the Dodge to make it into a police car.” The maintenance division has a make-ready package, and again, only parts are charged.
As a budgeted item, the SAPD is responsible for paying the monthly fees on all vehicles throughout the year. Vehicles under manufacturer’s warranty and those crashed or rendered inoperable are also required to be covered under the City’s maintenance plan for the same fees.
“We’re looking at the lifetime costs,” explained Frerich. “Because it is a budgeted amount…until that cost is either a; replaced with another fee, aka a new vehicle coming online, at that point…it’s moved over and you’re not charged that monthly fee anymore; or b; that vehicle is sold and it’s no longer an asset of the City [the fees are charged].”
Current Vehicle Maintenance Division Superintendant Ryan Kramer explained that the reason for the continuance of the fee is also related to the division’s continued work on the vehicle in preparation for auction.
“While that car is wrecked and we’re not using it any longer, we are still stripping, we are still pulling old equipment off…we’re still washing, prepping to get the most return on our investment at the time of sale…it’s not completely void of any work being done,” Kramer explained.
Outsourcing of diagnostic and repair jobs on larger-scale issues such as problems with the cams or drive train also comes at additional cost, largely due to proprietary parts and licensing, as well as resources available.
“There’s a number of reasons it could be outsourced,” Frerich said. “Number one, we don’t have the equipment to properly diagnose it, number two, we don’t have the licenses and the licenses aren’t available to us…number three, we just don’t have the time if it’s going to be a very lengthy diagnosis…”
The Vehicle Maintenance Division services all other City vehicles on the same basis. Three years ago, the fees for each vehicle type were re-evaluated and adjusted. Fees are based on the type of vehicle, as well as how it will be used and what regular maintenance the vehicle requires.
As the discussion on the billing and services ended, Chief Vasquez stated, “I think the question is, is there any way to save money.”
Frerich responded positively, “Yeah, we can. There’s ways we can save money. I mean, we can absolutely look at it from a fleet approach and see if there’s practices out there that we can implement or do away with or whatever, and fleet-wide see if they’re going to be beneficial…”
After all questions had been answered, staff and the SAPD called for a brief break, after which the meeting resumed, joined by City Manager Daniel Valenzuela and Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Michael Dane who were both previously absent. Sgt. Kennedy took the opportunity to address a concern shared by multiple members of the police department that stemmed from the previous meeting held on Friday of last week.
“One of the things that I wanted to be addressed in today’s minutes was during the last meeting, our side and…the members of the police department heard on numerous occasions what appeared to be very accusatory terms of gross mismanagement on behalf of our Police Chief,” Kennedy said. “What I wanted to reiterate in the minutes was that not only do we not appreciate it, but we stand behind our chief, and we didn’t think that that was appropriate in a public forum. We felt like it was not only just a personal attack on him, but just not fit for this type of setting.”
David Kilcrease, the Field Representative for the Law Enforcement Association of Texas, interjected at this point, stating, ”’Gross’ may not be the proper word, but I think ‘mismanagement’ was used—it was probably used five or six times.”
Michael Dane remained silent on the issue.
The next Meet and Confer meeting is scheduled for Feb. 10 in City Hall at 9 a.m. A tentative plan for that meeting is making headway on proposals from the police department and the City on the raise proposed by the PD on Jan. 8.