Crystal Lake OKs renting cars to save $3.5M

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CRYSTAL LAKE – There is a sweet spot in a car’s life, Finance Director George Koczwara said.

A car is optimal until its age causes maintenance costs to rise, a curve Crystal Lake officials will take on with a new citywide fleet rental program for all city and police vehicles.

In a 15-year period, the rental program will reduce expenses by $3.57 million in comparison to current practices, Koczwara said. The money will then be used toward other city needs.

​“Obviously, there is no lack of capital or infrastructure requirements, so instead of using for fleet, there is other infrastructure and other capital projects that will be required, such as public works projects and road projects,” Koczwara said.

The city will lease from Enterprise Fleet Management Inc. for a term of five years, which can be renewed for additional years with approval from the City Council, according to city documents.

Mayor Aaron Shepley said the savings and reduction of maintenance expenses is good news for taxpayers.

“I think the fact that city staff did an investigation into this proposal and brought it to us is more evidence of how government can work like a business and do things in the most efficient manner as possible,” Shepley said.

Koczwara said each year during the city’s annual budgeting, officials look at the most efficient and economical way to buy vehicles and decided to consider other methods.

City staff spent the past year analyzing a new rental program for the 326 city-owned vehicles, many of which are beyond their useful lives.

“We came up with the life cycle costing analysis, and the whole goal is to put into place an optimal vehicle replacement schedule,” Koczwara said. “We then found the leasing program Enterprise runs and thought instead of outright purchasing, we would lease it as a monthly operating cost.”

City vehicles will be leased for about five years, with police vehicles leased for three years.

Another element of cost-saving is that of the 116 vehicles participating in the rental program, 54 will have bumper-to-bumper coverage and preventative maintenance done at local shops in Crystal Lake through Enterprise.

“It’s giving back to the local business owners, as well,” Koczwara said. “We are able to leverage Enterprise’s contract with national repair shops to get cost-effective maintenance.”

One fleet maintenance position will be eliminated through attrition once someone retires.

Koczwara said locally, he does not know of any other city governments who use a leasing program, but it has become popular nationally.

“We will be rotating vehicles at optimal time where we can take advantage of its highest residual value before maintenance costs start to increase,” Koczwara said.

Koczwara said the program will be reviewed twice a year to see how the vehicle schedule is operating.