The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office may be moving to a lease program to manage its fleet of vehicles.
Sheriff Eddie Hawkins and Enterprise Fleet Management Senior Account Representative Keith Sidwell pitched the idea Tuesday to the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors. Hawkins said moving to a fleet management model would not only save the department money but would also make it possible to replace old vehicles much more quickly.
Maintenance costs in the last fiscal year were higher than anticipated, Hawkins said, and resulted in the department spending about $172,000 rather than the $115,000 budgeted.
Other agencies across the state are going to a fleet management system in an attempt to better manage costs, he said.
“We are looking at using the allotted money to lease vehicles rather than purchase them this year,” he said. “We budgeted to purchase seven vehicles. With that same amount of money, we can lease 27 vehicles.”
Hawkins said there are 77 vehicles in his fleet, meaning he would effectively replace a third of them at once via leasing.
The program is not like leasing from a dealership, Sidwell said, and is much closer to a lease-purchase agreement in practice. Vehicles would be rotated out of service on a schedule determined by their use, with undercover vehicles replaced every year or two and patrol vehicles every four or five years.
“We looked at a four- to five-year replacement cycle on your fleet, and we feel like over 10 years you could save around $1 million” in maintenance and fuel costs, Sidwell said. “The goal is to replace the vehicles while they’re still worth something, instead of running them until the wheels come off and having all that capital tied up.”
The county would also “recapture” money by flipping the used vehicles, Sidwell said.
“Each year we will analyze those vehicles and determine should you hold on to them or should you replace them,” he said. “These undercover vehicles, we can replace them in a year and sell them for more than what you paid for them because you are a government entity (and thus get a lower price). That’s how Enterprise Rent-A-Car makes money. It’s not by renting cars. It’s buying a million vehicles a year, and then flipping them in six to 12 months for $20,000 or $25,000 more than what was paid for them.”
The vehicles would be delivered “turnkey ready” with lights, sirens, cages, logos, everything necessary except the radios, which the county would be responsible for, Sidwell said.
Sidwell and Hawkins recommended that the county put out a request for proposals for fleet management.
“I want to make sure that if there are other companies out there that they get an opportunity,” District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks said. “I want this proposal to be generic enough that anybody else has a chance.”
The request would be competitive, and the terms of the RFP were developed in-house by Chief Deputy Brent Swan, Hawkins said.
Sidwell “has not seen the RFP,” Swan said. “It was all done internally.”
Swan said that he used examples from other government entities to craft the RFP.
“I’m just concerned for when the auditors come,” Brooks said.
Hawkins said he sent the RFP to the state auditor’s office for approval.
“We’re making sure that we’re not doing anything that we shouldn’t do,” Hawkins said.
District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders moved to put out the request for proposals, and got a second from District 3 Supervisor John Holliman. It passed unanimously.
“All we’re doing is asking for proposals,” Sanders said. “We don’t have to accept anything.”