Fillmore County Board takes look at leasing program for squad cars

By : 
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY
BLUFF COUNTRY NEWS GROUP

Fillmore County’s commissioners handled housekeeping items during the April 24 County Board meeting, focusing on the vehicles that the county’s deputies drive to be available for its citizens.

After considerable discussion, the board decided to take no action on a proposal on the Enterprise leasing program through which the county could lease squad cars, instead of having to buy new squads and maintain them as part of a fleet. Sheriff Tom Kaase was accompanied by Enterprise account executive Wong Nystrom, who gave a presentation to the commissioners.

 “It’s worth taking a real hard look at this because other counties in southeast Minnesota are doing this,” said Kaase.  

Commissioner Duane Bakke commented that it seemed that only one county, Winona County, had chosen to use Enterprise’s services to manage its squad fleet, and Kaase and Nystrom replied that in addition to Winona County, Steele, Olmsted and Dodge counties have considered using the service. 

Nystrom remarked that Enterprise’s program would offer the county a more consistent squad car rotation schedule and possibly save the county up to $10,000 annually, based on Fillmore County’s $100,000 average annual vehicle budget, but with a 5 percent fee for services.  He added that the service would track fuel and maintenance costs, as well as take over billing for maintenance that could be carried out at area repair shops.  He informed the commissioners that in the first year, the total cost would be estimated at $71,500 on Enterprise’s finance-to-own program— which he related essentially gives the county the right to equip its squads as it sees fit and have equity at the end of a vehicle’s service period -- and that by participating, the county could have more reliability and safety in its fleet.

“We’ve got vehicles ordered for 2018.  What happens to those?” Bakke questioned.

Kaase interjected, “If we go through with this, they can take over the purchase and we don’t have to go through with it.  We would replace four and get back on track.” 

“So just over $10,000 in savings…with what we’ve been buying, Tahoes…our trade-ins would be much better if we stick with what we’re buying,” said Bakke.  “Impalas aren’t worth anything when you trade them in.” 

Commissioner Randy Dahl stated, “What I don’t see here – we keep the vehicles an average of four years….” 

Kaase said, “We’ve been keeping them up to five years.” 

Dahl continued, “So it’s going to vary depending on the vehicle, but we have the purchase price and the base price...if we go ahead with this, we need to know the average cost expected.” 

When Bakke asked Nystrom about the purchase price, he replied, “We match or beat the state bid.”

Commissioner Mitch Lentz wanted to know how the company handles tracking the equipment installed in the squads, and Nystrom replied that the equipment would belong to the county and tracked so that the sheriff’s department would know not to transfer failing equipment to a newer vehicle. 

“Our lease functions as a finance-to-own, though we wouldn’t recommend buying it out because of better fuel economy and maintenance instead of buying it out at the end,” he added.

Lentz related that the county has examined the possibility of leasing more than squad cars — that committees have discussed leasing snowplows, departments’ pickup trucks and fleet cars. 

Bakke asked, “So at the end, you own the vehicle and it doesn’t matter to us what happens to it?” 

Nystrom said, “You treat the vehicle as if you own it, but at the end, I can come to pick it up and sell it for you, and you have equity in it, or you can sell it yourself.” 

Bakke inquired as to what would happen if the county were to opt out after using Enterprise’s leasing service for several years:  “Are we going to have to buy new vehicles?” 

Nystrom answered that the county would gradually end its relationship with Enterprise and that it would not be left without squad cars. 

Bakke observed that at the end of a lease period, should the county opt out, there would be greater expenses for the first year as the county attempts to recover its outright ownership of vehicles.  “At a savings of $10,000 a year, I struggle with what it would cost to get out of this,” he said.

In another matter, human resources officer Kristina Kohn brought forward the retirement of home health aide Nancy Aske, effective July 1, and a request to advertise for an accounting technician in the sheriff’s office.  The board thanked Aske for her 31 years of service to the county.

The commissioners also heard from Kaase about the sheriff’s accounting technician position.  Kaase acknowledged that the position became available through a recent retirement and that examining what his office’s needs are was part of the process, and that the individual who had carried out the tasks that the position entailed also served as jail matron — being present when a female inmate was being brought into the jail or being detained — and that the accounting technician he sought would be responsible for registering arrest and other detention warrants with the state, something specific to his department’s accounting staffing needs. 

County coordinator and auditor-treasurer Bobbie Vickerman highlighted that she has encountered some difficulty in her temporary role as auditor-treasurer in streamlining accounting functions because of the tendency of accounting staff installed in each county department to specialize in that department’s particulars, meaning that communication between the departments is less likely to occur. 

“In a sense, it’s not centralized accounting, but there are branches,” she said.

Lentz concurred, “There are accounting techs in the departments, but they’ve all got their different things in their departments.  I agree with Bobbie that that’s why there are silos.” 

Dahl raised the matter of cross-training and proper training with his comment, “Each department has their unique things, but they’re lacking cross-training.  I’d probably vote for this, but I don’t want to see this person be hired as an account tech and then be a jail matron.  I don’t want to see a guy apply for this job and not get it simply because he can’t be a jail matron…I don’t want a lawsuit because of that.  And I don’t want to see someone back in the jail who’s not trained.  You put a person who’s an account tech with an inmate and that person gets assaulted, we’re going to have a lawsuit.  If you need a jail person, put it in your budget.  If you need to rotate cars more often, put it in your budget.” 

Kaase commented that Dahl had brought up a good point and that budgeting was why a jail matron, or other appropriate personnel, hadn’t been hired. 

The commissioners briefly discussed who at the jail might also serve as jail matron, including a female deputy and a dispatcher who has been trained in jail processes.

Dahl addressed Kaase and Kohn, “I need to hear this is an accounting tech job…I apologize if we’ve taken cars out of the rotation and budget.  That’s on us, and it’s the same here.  If you need more people in your office, then you need more people in your budget.” 

Commissioner Marc Prestby made a motion to hire an accounting technician for the sheriff’s office with the explanation included that this position would only encompass accounting and no other jail duties, and with Prestby’s motion seconded, the board voted to approve the hire.           

Economic development director Marty Walsh, contracted from Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) to serve as such, came before the board to request renewal of the enabling resolution for the county’s Economic Development Authority (EDA), or to call a public hearing regarding the bylaws that govern the EDA. 

Dahl made a motion to set a public hearing, and while Bakke questioned the need for a resolution to set the hearing, a public forum has been put on the calendar for May 22 at 10 a.m. 

In other matters, Vickerman presented a resolution to approve sponsorship of the Bluff Valley Riders, Mabel-Canton Trail Busters, Hiawatha I and II and Tri-County Trailblazers snowmobile clubs for the 2018-2019 season, and the commissioners obliged. 

Highway engineer Ron Gregg had a list of 2018 aggregate rock bids for various county roads — 107, 109, 114, 117 and 118 and County State Aid Highways (CSAH) 6, 8, 23, 26, 28 and 30 — that he sent to the commissioners with representatives of his department and asked that the board award the bids.  Bruening Rock Products got the bid for 107 at $26,054.78, 109 at $5,088.83, 117 at $13,568.31, 118 at $15,266.48, 26 at $36,334.21, 28 at $45,342.80 and 30 at $43,880.13.  Orval Sorum & Sons garnered the bid for 23 at $29,330.91, while Milestone Materials will handle 114 at $20,285.78, 6 at $20,185.20 and 8 at $14,004.90. 

Administrative items encompassed a resolution to apply for an educational grant from the Winneshiek County Solid Waste Agency.  Vickerman spoke because solid waste administrator Drew Hatzenbihler could not be at the meeting, and she explained that the grant is an annual item for which the county applies.  The resolution was accepted.     

The consent agenda included approving the minutes of the April 10 board meeting, appointing Arlyn Hovey as township representative to the Planning Commission, granting street closures for the 2018 Preston Trout Days celebration as approved by Kaase, allowing overnight stays for the county coordinator-auditor-treasurer and a lead account technician to attend election training in Brainerd, and giving social workers Elizabeth Fuglestad and Traci Corson each a merit increase.