Ill. City Moves Out of ‘Prehistoric’ Garages

October 28, 2014

The new consolidated fleet facility has 20 bays. Photo courtesy of city of Springfield.
The new consolidated fleet facility has 20 bays. Photo courtesy of city of Springfield.

The City of Springfield, Ill., has moved into a $1.2 million consolidated fleet facility, which replaced five separate, older maintenance repair shops, to improve operational efficiency.

The city ugraded a building that was once used by a concrete wall manufacturer and configured it for fleet use. The structure measures 30,000 square feet and includes 20 bays.

“We will now take care of all the city fleet maintenance needs,” said William McCarty, director of the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) that houses the fleet division.

The facility represents much more than just physically moving maintenance shops, McCarty said. The new fleet department under fleet manager Mike Palazzolo represents a consolidation of four independent maintenance operations of four departments. Employees from these departments, who previously belonged in four different unions, will become employees of OBM within one union.

The cost of the facility and fleet consolidation effort is approximately $1.6 million. The facility came with two 10-ton overhead cranes that cover the entire length and width of the shop floor. Staff, working in two shifts, will maintain about 900 pieces of rolling stock and about 200 other items.

The facility is a major upgrade from the old buildings, McCarty said. Public works and fire didn’t have lifts, and technicians used jacks or drove vehicles onto wooden blocks to work on them. Some shops didn’t have designated bays or any lines marking work areas — instead, vehicles were parked wherever there was space, and that was where technicians would work on them. Ceilings on public works maintenance facilities were so low, technicians sometimes had to work on vehicles outside because they couldn’t lift them very high.

“We took prehistoric operations and modernized them,” McCarty said. “One of our fire mechanics told me he’s been working on fire trucks for over 20 years. He said it’s the first time he walked under [a fire truck on a lift].”

Previously, fire department technicians didn't have vehicle lifts. Photo courtesy of city of Springfield.
Previously, fire department technicians didn't have vehicle lifts. Photo courtesy of city of Springfield.

In May 2011, when the consolidation effort began, there were 47 people associated with fleet maintenance, McCarty said. As of this month, there are 32 positions, and McCarty expects this fall into the 20s within a few years.

“We are saving the city more than $1 million in costs versus the operational matrix that was in place in 2011,” he said. “Based upon our plans in the next few years, I expect annual savings to reach $1.5 million within five years and possibly $2 million within 10 years.”

By Thi Dao

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