County grappling with 'fleet creep'


By Patsy Nicosia

Fleet creep.
It’s fun to say, but also costly.
That’s what Schoharie County supervisors heard at their July meeting in a presentation on a proposed Vehicle & Equipment Capital Plan that would rein in costs and spending.
By definition, fleet creep is when the size of a fleet of vehicles slowly grows over time.
Vehicles and equipment represent the second largest increase in the county budget over the last five-six years, Administrator Steve Wilson told supervisors.
And without a plan for replacement, emergencies wreak havoc with the budget.
The county’s proposed capital plan would smooth out those ups and downs, said Fonda Chronis, assistant to Mr. Wilson, who worked with the County’s Department of Public works in putting it together and ran through it for supervisors.
“Now, it’s pay as you go,” Mr. Chronis said. “It’s very difficult with budgeting.”
Plus, he said, no plan means most of the county’s vehicles are high mileage, and in less-than-acceptable condition—something that could raise safety concerns.
As proposed, the plan, which began by compiling a list of vehicles and equipment by department, would “develop and implement a flexible system that annually evaluates vehicle quality and departmental need.”
It would also cap the county’s fleet—including vehicles, trailers and rescue items—at 226.
The high for 2018 was 267 with the fleet currently at 220; 27 vehicles will go going to auction in November.
Once those vehicles are eliminated, the next part of the plan focuses on replacement by doing an annual review of needs—but also allowing for flexibility, Mr. Chronis said.
Of particular concern is DPW, where the county has put off equipment upgrades because of the cost.
The capital plan calls for paying off the county’s current municipal grant with mostly-rollover funds and then enter into a new municipal lease to purchase $1.5 million in vehicle and equipment paid for entirely by 2020 CHIPS funding.
The plan also calls for establishing and funding a reserve fund to pay for additional DPW items identified as in need of replacement.
One catch to this part of the proposal: It assumes no reduction in CHIPS funding.
If changes are significant, the plan would need to be reworked.
“I’d hate to see the money taken out of CHIPS,” said Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe. “It takes away from roads and bridges. That’s what people see…”
Supervisors are expected to adopt the plan at their August meeting and were mostly supportive of it.
“I’ve been here for 16 years and fleet creep comes up at this time every year,” said Gilboa Supervisor Tony VanGlad.
“You can’t separate the purchase price from maintenance costs,” said Schoharie Supervisor Alan Tavenner, “or you get behind the eight ball and end up buying a used grade-all. If you sell them before you run them into the ground” you avoid that.