BROOKSVILLE, FLHernando County Engineer Charles Mixson and Fleet Manager Jack Stepongzi were advised by members of a budget and finance committee April 7 to consider using private companies to reduce fleet department costs, according to Hernando Today.

The department, which in February was forced to borrow $350,000 from the general fund to remain operational, has been criticized in the past for its budget and billing procedures.

County Commissioner Jeff Stabins, a member of the committee, questioned why fleet mechanics charge $85-an-hour in labor costs to do oil changes when a better price could be had at a private dealer.

Mixson said the $85 fee includes complete preventive maintenance of the vehicle, which, depending on the mileage, involves checking brakes, tire wear, fluid levels, and other services. Mixson said he has experience with automotive dealers and knows they don't always perform the promised safety checks.

Stepongzi said the county has a responsibility to make sure all its vehicles are in good working order or face possible liability.

After almost an hour debate, committee members directed Mixson to look at ways of keeping existing fleet vehicles on the road longer before replacement; contact the sheriff's office and school district and look at how those agencies conduct their vehicle maintenance; and consider bidding out certain maintenance services to cut costs.

Mixson will return with another report during an upcoming county commission meeting.