By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
Plans to consolidate and relocate most of the city’s vehicle and equipment maintenance operations to the fairgrounds are expected to move forward this week.
Administrators said that although the initial investment may seem high, the move could result in a net savings in the future. General estimates for the conversion of the Bartholet Building to a central garage total about $179,000, up from the $87,000 predicted in August.
Robert Swepston, who oversees the city’s new vehicle maintenance division, estimated the proposed consolidation could produce a savings of up to 30 percent for the city’s fleet maintenance.
“There will be a slight increase in expenditures, but it could result in big savings on the back end,” Swepston said during last week’s Finance Committee meeting. “It’s a total restructuring we’re headed for.”
The move would consolidate work on the city’s police and public works vehicles and equipment, which is now done at six locations. The fire department’s service garage would be unaffected by the proposal.
City Manager Greg Buckley has been eyeing the move for some time, socking back $225,000 during the past few years to fund the proposal. When the city assumed operations of the fairgrounds this year, Buckley pitched the idea of a central equipment maintenance garage.
City councilors, however, asked for more details in August on potential costs, savings and the impact the move might have on employees. Swepston provided much of that information last week, but lingering questions about security and the initial investment cost the support of Councilors Dan Hall, Ward II, and Kenny Payne, Ward IV.
Hall had questions about what steps would be put in place to safeguard police gear — weapons, ammunition and safety equipment — while officers’ vehicles were in for maintenance. Payne said the money could be spent on other projects that would benefit more people.
Swepston said a fence topped with razor wire, inside storage for overnight stops and surveillance cameras should provide sufficient security. Buckley said the potential savings, if realized, could be set aside for future projects.
The goal, Buckley said, is to have a single-management oversight system for city vehicles and equipment. Consolidation would reduce the costs of operation and tool duplication.
Swepston said centralizing operations also would enable him to start using tracking software that would improve maintenance scheduling, better use the department’s manpower and properly equip city mechanics.
City councilors will take up the issue at their regular meeting today.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
WHAT: Muskogee City Council regular meeting.
WHEN: 7 p.m. today.
WHERE: City Council Chambers, third floor, Muskogee Municipal Building, 229 W. Okmulgee Ave.
ON TV: Broadcast live on Suddenlink Channel 14.