JUNCTION CITY, KS - The City of Junction City, Kan., completed the transfer of Public Works duties, including fleet maintenance, from Veolia Water back to the City on June 23. The transfer, which brings back Public Works operations after nine years of outsourcing, had taken more than one year to complete.

“By us taking back the core portion of Public Works…we can see a reduction of about a half-million dollars a year on the first year and upwards of up to $750,000 after five years, annually,” said Greg McCaffery, assistant city manager/municipal services director for the City.

Public Works’ core functions include street maintenance, solid waste collection, water distribution, and sanitation collection. Fleet maintenance is a supplementary function.

Veolia had been using the City’s equipment and facilities, but had made some investments in upgrading vehicles and equipment that needed replacement in the past nine years, McCaffery said. Two-thirds of the equipment Veolia was using for its operations—or $2.5 million worth — is still owned by the City. The City has entered into a lease-purchase agreement to take over Veolia’s ownership of $1.2 million of equipment (rolling stock and fixed assets) it had purchased within the last nine years, calculated at present depreciated value. This equipment includes pickups, dump trucks, backhoes, front-end loaders, totaling about 80 rolling stock units.

Veolia’s two mechanics had been maintaining vehicles at the Public Works maintenance facility, which has four bays. After extensive interviews with other potential candidates, the City hired Veolia’s mechanics — one lead mechanic and one general mechanic — to continue maintaining the Public Works fleet. One of these mechanics had been a City employee before the City outsourced the Public Works operation nine years ago. The fleet group will also have assistants who will supplement mechanics on an as-needed basis, and for duties such as running for parts, McCaffery said.

Other fleet vehicles in the City are maintained by user departments, which contract out their own maintenance work. However, there are plans to consolidate the fleet in order to save on costs.

“Once we get our operations up and running and we can demonstrate how efficient it is run, we think that is our long-term plan. We think we can do it more cost-effectively than individual departments going out and doing their own maintenance,” McCaffery said.

The Engineering and Buildings & Codes departments’ five pickup trucks will be the first vehicles outside of Public Works to be maintained by Public Works mechanics. However, McCaffery said it was too soon to determine if the City would be able to expand its mechanic staff.

Additionally, the City has purchased a dedicated fleet maintenance software package, Manager Plus, which it will use to automate maintenance, and parts and materials tracking.

McCaffery said when Veolia took over Public Works operations, the company hired most of the City’s employees. With the transition back, the City has hired about 90% of Veolia’s employees to stay at their positions. McCaffery and Public Works Director Ray Ibarra conducted nearly 400 interviews of these employees and outside candidates before making hiring decisions for 25 full time and six seasonal employees, McCaffery said.

Public Works’ operating budget of $4.5 million is about one quarter of the City’s operating cost. Fleet maintenance does not have its own budget, McCaffery said.

By Thi Dao