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Salt Lake County slows fleet rotation

Policy change is expected to save $27 million over decade

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A change of policy in Salt Lake County's fleet division could save the county more than $27 million over the next decade and curb widespread waste, according to a task force.

The policy change, introduced to County Council members Tuesday, scales back the county's rapid-rotation system of selling used vehicles within 18 months after purchase. The new system will keep sheriff's office vehicles on that quick turn-around but will put all light and heavy-duty vehicles on a seven-year replacement cycle.

Mayor Peter Corroon acknowledged the task force's report and policy change — the second phase of a study started in May — is just the beginning to finding a solution to problems in the fleet division that have led to an exorbitant surplus and the transformation of the fleet into essentially a used car lot.

"We want to close a chapter of the past and start moving into the future," he said. "Rapid rotation really made sense when it first started."

Several council members questioned the report's conclusions, however, because they were mostly based on findings by a consultant hired to look at the rapid-rotation system. The group, Mercury & Associates, used a depreciation analysis of the Toyota Camry to determine how long the county should keep vehicles.

Using one particular vehicle to create divisionwide policy may be too general an approach to finding the best answer for each vehicle in the county's 1,900-vehicle fleet, Councilman Mark Crockett said.

"A blanket answer is probably wrong because the objective is to minimize total cost of ownership," he said. "There's not going to be one answer."

April Townsend, director of the newly created Administrative Services Department, said the task force plans to simply use the Camry model as a starting point but will now start studying the effectiveness of a seven-year cycle.

"While we made this sweeping generalized statement, now we need to track it," she said. "We realize there is a lot more work ahead of us."

Reining in the rapid-rotation program is expected to save the county nearly $12 million over the next 10 years. Other changes such as a reduction in overtime pay, reduction in maintenance and eliminating 71 vehicles from the fleet are projected to save the county an additional $15 million.

"This has allowed us to sit back and look at how we use this huge resource," Townsend said.

Along with the operational changes, the task force created a new policy list for the division that will be overseen by a Fleet Management Board. Those new policies will come before the County Council after they have passed through a steering committee.

E-mail: estewart@desnews.com