ESCANABA - The Delta County Road Commission has agreed to evaluate concerns and information regarding a potential joint venture for vehicle maintenance services. The discussion took place during a recent road commission board meeting.
According to DCRC Managing Director Rob VanEffen, the board requested to move forward on discussing services with First Vehicle Services, one company who submitted a proposal for joint vehicle maintenance services. The board also requested concerns and information in writing from some local business owners regarding vehicle maintenance, which the board will evaluate.
"We're still pursuing actual costs so we can compare and see if we can save the road commission money, as well as other entities that may want to be involved, and try to provide a better service for the public," explained VanEffen.
A representative from Ohio-based FVS spoke to members of the county board last week regarding their services and potential benefits to local agencies.
So far, the road commission and county have shown an interest in participating in the joint venture for services as a cost-saving measure, with the ability of other entities to join. The maintenance services would be housed at the DCRC facility. This joint venture has been explored for approximately two years.
"It's just a proposal, but First Vehicles proposed doing the vehicle maintenance on anything and everything we provided a list of, which included everything from police cars, pickup trucks, fire trucks, school buses, heavy equipment, landfill, airport equipment, and dump trucks," said VanEffen.
The road commission and county received proposals for the services from FVS and two local companies: Schultz Equipment and Fleet Maintenance.
VanEffen said Schultz Equipment's proposal was to work on a specific size of vehicle, and not all types.
"First Vehicle gave us a very comprehensive, very detailed proposal, and we had questions for them," said VanEffen. "Fleet Maintenance out of Escanaba also gave us a proposal that we had questions on."
VanEffen noted FVS offered lower prices for parts than Fleet Maintenance in their proposal, based on sample pricing.
However, VanEffen said it's too early to say how much money could be saved through a joint venture but they are fully anticipating a savings.
"Right now we don't know because we're not in the contract stage of this yet. We're anticipating ... roughly a 19 percent savings in parts," he said, with potential added savings since the road commission would only be charged by FVS when their vehicle is being worked on.
FVS also hires locally, offers national contracts for fuel and oil, has proposed extended work hours, and is community oriented.
They would provide mandatory education for employees at FVS' expense and would assist in parts inventory management, said VanEffen.
No one at the road commission would lose their job through the joint venture, since it's in their union contract that the road commission cannot lay off if they subcontract. The road commission and county also asked FVS to look at current employees of other potential units who would like to participate in the joint venture when hiring.
FVS' hourly service rate for equipment service and parts has a proposed hourly rate of $74, with a 10 percent parts markup and 10 percent service/parts markup for approved outsourced repairs. Fleet Maintenance's proposal had similar figures of $60 per hour, with a 10 percent parts markup, and 5 percent markup on additional outsourcing, but VanEffen said FVS has clarified what services they offer for their price, while with Fleet Maintenance, these answers are unclear.
Fleet Maintenance recently withdrew its bid, issuing a statement saying it was more than willing to work within guidelines of existing labor agreements with DCRC employees, expressing its support of limited outsourcing to local companies and training assistance to DCRC employees, as needed. They also voiced their support for local business and government working together to solve financial problems and wished to submit a revised RFP.
However, VanEffen said allowing them to resubmit after they've had a chance to see FVS' proposal is unfair.
County Administrator Nora Viau said, to her understanding, the Fleet Maintenance and Schultz Equipment proposals did not include Delta County vehicles, but only the road commission.
"The point was to have efficiency for both of us and numbers for both of us that would be attractive for both of us," she explained. "If we start doing that, then the county's left in the hole, basically. We don't have a garage. We don't have a facility."
Locally, concerns have come up on how outsourcing to a national company would impact the community.
Concerned citizen Bob Lafave, who worked with Fleet Maintenance on their proposal, took issue with money potentially leaving the community.
"These are Delta County businesses that will be affected by this," said Lafave. "First off, every business in Delta County is going to be affected by this because the profit dollars ... are leaving the county."
However, Viau said the county has had a good experience in outsourcing jail medical and food services to national companies, noting local people are still making money as the county still gets its supplies from the same places.
Lafave said he believes there are other options worth exploring.
"Here's a great opportunity to show how local business can work with the local labor to help resolve an issue," said Lafave, commenting that local business is being ignored.
He also had concerns that Fleet Maintenance was being ignored from being invited to speak during a recent county board meeting, since FVS had a representative speak in between a county board meeting and joint public hearing. VanEffen said the representative happened to be in town since he met with the road commission and county to clarify their proposals earlier in the day.
"From my aspect, I wouldn't want the two of them sitting there at a public meeting and you end up in a debate over who's going to do the better job," said VanEffen. "The intent was, and it was a fluke, that it was set up for the 19th, and that happened to be on the day of the county board meeting."
He noted there are some concerns of losing control over vehicle maintenance by outsourcing, but said there would still be contact people at the road commission and county to maintain control and oversight.