BY MARIA MIRAKAJ BROWNSELL
Back in July, Clarkstown Town Board members made a law to consolidate the three town garages in an effort to save money and improve efficiency. They appointed the supervisor of the mini-trans garage, Dennis Malone, as the fleet manager of the new consolidation. Malone reports to the town board directly instead of Highway Supervisor Wayne Ballard.
The town has 360 vehicles, 13 mechanics and three garages. With the new consolidation, Malone is able to assign mechanics between the different garages as needed, he explained. He said during the storm on Monday night, only one mechanic was able to report to the garage to put chains on the police vehicles, so he brought in another mechanic from the highway department and they got the job done.
With the new consolidation, Malone stresses that the vehicles are now better taken care of. There is one data base for maintenance of all the different types of vehicles.
“Regular maintenance program will maximize the life of the vehicles and ensure safe operation for our residents and town employees,” he said. He said that they had to spend $7,000 on oil pans, which is something that never should have been needed if taken care of.
The total savings to date is $215,000. In house repairs, tire replacements, and regular maintenance are large parts in that savings, according to Malone. The cost of sending out equipment for repairs is high.
Malone also presented a modified breakdown of equipment recommendations for this year and next year that will result in significant savings for the town. There will also be a reduced budget for parts that will bring costs down by $65,000 and a new wash program to make town vehicles last longer and break down less often.
Malone believes this program to be working positively for the town. Some other positive impacts he listed are, “entire fleet operational during February 8th 2013 storm, availability of mechanics to work in all three garages, and the purchase of diagnostic equipment will ensure efficient and accurate maintenance of vehicles.”
Councilwoman Hausner asked about the maintenance schedule and life expectancy of vehicles. Councilman Hoehmann asked how they are saving $30,000 per year on tires.
“If you take care of everything on time, it lasts longer,” said Malone. He also said that they are using different suppliers for the tires with better prices.
Highway Superintendent Wayne Ballard was also present at the workshop meeting and had many comments of his own on the consolidation.
“One of the things that I did notice that are different about this year was when I looked back at all the FEMA projects that I have experienced over time… and maybe this is just an oversight, but when the mechanics were working for the highway department we were able to claim their overtime costs. For example in Hurricane Irene, we were able to recover over $42,000. So maybe this is an oversight, maybe this is something the town may need to look into but it could be as high as $165,000 if that wasn’t claimed for,” said Ballard. Malone said he will add that into the calculations.
Ballard went through different pieces of equipment that Malone had previously listed and explained which parts he agreed with and what he didn’t.
“We need to look at the big picture here. I know that we have consolidation. I know there may be difference of opinions on it, but the one thing that we do all agree on is the highway equipment is under the responsibility and supervision of the Highway Superintendent. I want the machines to be shipped upstate and to be evaluated. Now I need money to do that,” said Ballard.
“I’m pleasantly surprised that a fleet management system will be installed in a couple of months and I thank you for that, Dennis. It was a lot of fun to work with Dennis and we got a lot of things done and there’s learning curves and I respect that,” he continued. He explained that they need “real-time data” about where the different pieces of equipment are at all times. During the last snow storm they were looking for equipment that was being maintained and didn’t know it.
Ballard also asked about the washing of trucks and how none of Malone’s ideas have worked out so far and that it needs to be figured out very soon. He once again reiterated that “it’s a learning curve,”
“I believe a lot has been done in the last six months. We agreed in September that this would take a full year to get all the kinks out,” said Supervisor Alexander Gromack. “This is a work in progress,” he added.
Ballard is also concerned about a piece of equipment called a Menzi Muck that is waiting to be repaired. He says this is a unique item that can do the jobs of many in one. Malone says it is a waste of money as agreeing that it is a one of a kind which makes its parts prices astronomical. Gromack said that there will be more meetings to discuss these items amongst the groups.
“In the next 6 month report, it would be nice to see both parties working together. It’s not productive to bring these issues up at a public meeting,” said Councilwoman Hausner.