Commissioners review vehicle leasing agreement for sheriff’s office

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Enterprise Fleet Management representative Wong Nystrom, Sheriff John DeGeorge and Chief Deputy Lance Boyum appeared before the Fillmore County commissioners on Tuesday, May 7, with information regarding the county’s fleet vehicle contract with Enterprise that was signed approximately a year ago.

DeGeorge related that his understanding of the program before and upon his being sworn in as the county’s new sheriff was that it is a leasing program. However, he met with Nystrom after taking office and learned more about the program and discovered the word “lease” is used to describe the commercial pay-to-own arrangement.

Commissioner Duane Bakke asked the sheriff, “Are they buying it, or are we? They’ve got the title.”

Nystrom explained that like a bank holds the title for vehicles purchased with a consumer loan, Enterprise holds the titles of vehicles that its contract-holders purchase until they pay off the loan or choose to sell.

DeGeorge commented, “We still maintain equity in the vehicle until we pay it off. The equity comes back to us, and that’s the difference between this and a consumer lease.”

He also remarked that the vehicles the county uses must be reliable and maintained well, be they the county’s own fleet or obtained through Enterprise. Apparently, experience with the county’s aging squad cars had shown him the benefits of having cars on purchasing rotation.

“Keeping vehicles too long – I don’t want to be dramatic, but there was a deputy stuck at an intersection in traffic while waiting for a tow truck while there were calls coming in,” he said. “We have to answer every call that comes in.”

Nystrom maintained that the county cannot compete with the rotation program that his company can offer due to the county paying cash for the vehicles to avoid incurring interest on credit purchases.

“You need to budget two vehicles per year, regardless of whether you work with me. You’ve identified in 2020 five vehicles that should go, so next year, if the county wanted to pay cash and do it themselves, you’d have to budget $196,000,” he said. “That’s the problem…a lot of cities and counties don’t have that money.”

Bakke scrutinized the numbers that Nystrom presented, especially in relation to maintenance and the equipment that law enforcement needs to put a car on the road.

DeGeorge said, “One thing I’m wondering about is why can’t we, as a sheriff’s office, do all of these things and budget upfront – can we do what Enterprise does? The answer is no because the chief deputy manages the fleet, and in addition to managing 15 employees, he doesn’t have the time. I liken it to managed IT services. We could do it ourselves, but….”

Nystrom assured the board, “You control all decision-making in this, and everything is under the sheriff’s office and board’s control.”

Bakke registered, “I’m not saying it’s a bad program, but a lot of higher-value SUVs would be of a lot more resale value to us if we did it ourselves.”

DeGeorge said, “The endgame in this really is the 15 vehicles…”

Commissioner Mitch Lentz concurred, “This is his (DeGeorge) way of optimizing our fleet of vehicles.”

Further discussion led the board to inquire whether expanding the program to include all of the county’s fleet – countywide – would be useful.

Lentz added, “If it’s that good for law enforcement, then it should be good for the rest of the county.”

Commissioner Marc Prestby made the first motion to continue using Enterprise to supply the county’s sheriff’s fleet, and following a vote in favor, the board asked Nystrom to lay out costs for the highway department’s automotive and truck needs.

Highway department

Highway engineer Ron Gregg had requests for the board, including that the board reject all bids for the reconstruction of Grosbeak Road from Trunk Highway 16 to the Lanesboro fish hatchery. He said this recommendation was based on changes in the costs and available time had become obstacles.

“The DNR is redoing the Lanesboro fish hatchery right now and building two buildings. I feel that it’s going to be a fundable project next year,” he said.

Bakke called for a motion on the project’s bid rejection. “We’re rejecting bids, but the project is still viable,” he added.

Gregg said that he’d informed the township board of the potential delay.

Gregg also requested approval of the 2019 aggregate rock contracts for county roads 102, 112 and 117 and county state aid roads 7, 11, 15, 22, 29 and 30, and awarding the project for the replacement of a bridge on County 12, all of which were given.

Coordinator’s report

In her report, County Coordinator Bobbie Vickerman first reported on efforts to establish electronic document management software.

Requests for proposals were submitted to document management software providers, and after reviewing the proposals, Vickerman cited that inability to come to an agreement on a contract with the company that had been chosen resulted in her request to rescind the motion granting that company the contract.

The board voted to rescind the motion and Commissioner Randy Dahl suggested, as did Lentz, that the county explore obtaining a bid from Marco IT for that specific service. The board voted in favor.

Vickerman went on to outline the county assessor’s contract and asked to appoint retired assessor Cindy Blagsvedt as county assessor on a temporary basis. This will allow new assessor-land records director Brian Hoff time to obtain his Association of Minnesota Assessors (AMA) certification, which he was unaware he was to have pursued prior to his taking office.

Debate focused on Hoff’s need to be AMA-certified to satisfy state requirements and the contract that County Attorney Brett Corson had reviewed to bring Blagsvedt back to the courthouse on a limited basis. The initial request of $100 per hour and a minimum of four hours per week was met with resistance from Bakke and other members of the board because of the expense and Bakke’s notation of Hoff not being trained before Blagsvedt departed at the end of January.

Blagsvedt’s return, in Bakke’s opinion, would be as a designated signee, someone whose signature would be used to authorize valuations and the like.

Hoff said that it wasn’t his or Blagsvedt’s intent to have her come back to her job on a contract that would be ongoing or find her in the office often.

The board speculated that it would work best for the assessor’s office to collect as many documents that need her signature and have her come in to sign them as needed, and the board ultimately chose to proceed with the contract but amend it to appoint Blagsvedt on the as-needed basis, and to allot Hoff the opportunity to complete his AMA certification by July 1.

Other business

Auditor-treasurer Heidi Jones sought approval of a resolution to approve the county’s sponsorship of the Bluff Valley Riders, Mabel-Canton Trail Busters, Hiawatha I and II and Tri-County Trailblazers snowmobile clubs for the 2019-2020 season. Bakke motioned to approve the sponsorship – or serving as a pass-through agency.

Lastly, Human Resources Officer Kristina Kohn presented the resignation of GIS coordinator Danea Murphy, effective May 22, which was accepted.