By Jennifer Eberbach
Location: Southeast Michigan
Ferndale has already begun rolling out new municipal vehicles after city officials consulted with Enterprise Fleet Management on a cost-savings strategy. A new municipal lease agreement and the decision to maintain fewer, more fuel-efficient vehicles has freed up cash-flow and the changes will save Ferndale around $74,000 as the plan is implemented for the next ten years. A smaller fleet of police cars, dump trucks, vans, and other municipal service vehicles will be more efficiently maintained and replaced a lot sooner than under the old model.
Beyond the cash-flow benefits and cost-savings, Ferndale’s new fleet management strategy makes the city a little greener. Officials took suggestions made by the community-led Environmental Sustainability Commission, which was set up by the Sierra Club’s “Cool Cities” initiative—and got their endorsement. The new plan is also supporting the local tax-base by getting vehicles delivered through local dealership and maintenance shop Ed Schmid Ford—who hooked them up with new, more fuel-efficient Ford Focus police cars.
“Initially, our main goal was to improve our cash flow,” explains Byron Photiades, director of Ferndale’s department of public works.
Before changing their strategy, the city was purchasing vehicles straight-out and replacing them every twelve years. It was a big job to come up with all that cash at once. “From a delivered price standpoint, we would have had to come up with $185,000 to buy the new cars all at once,” he reports. Ferndale’s new five-year municipal lease mechanism allows them to spread the cost out—paying $2,364 a month for all of the police cars, which will be replaced sooner, he says.
The municipality has two skilled mechanics who can perform preventative care and repairs; however “farming out” the work to Ed Schmid’s repair shop frees up their hands to get around to all of the equipment that needs working on, which “keeps us on schedule,” explains Photiades. By retiring “underutilized” vehicles and maintaining a smaller fleet, the city has more time to “better maintain the vehicles we do have,” he adds.
Maintenance savings are significant when you are talking about something like a stop-and-go dump truck that sees a lot of road. Photiades jokes, “It’s not like taking the van to and from soccer practice—some of these vehicles are used eight hours a day, five days a week.”
Well-maintained equipment equals well-functioning public services, according to Photiades. “The question was, where can we be more productive, spend less money, and still keep a high level of services—as opposed to just cutting services? When you start cutting services it makes that community less attractive,” he says.
Enterprise Fleet Management’s Regional Sales Manager Jason Weiss reports, the company “has historically provided fleet management services to commercial business,” however, around five years ago, the company started providing “comprehensive” consulting services to government units and municipalities. The company initially connected with Ferndale in 2006 and “really dove in” on collaborating on a strategy for the city’s fleet management issues in mid-2008.
Flash forward to 2010 and Ferndale is also a bit greener. The old police cars where Crown Victorias—large-engine cruisers that get about eight miles to the gallon in the city. Fuel costs were high. Not only was gas costing them money, but the police fleet did not gel with the community’s greener-than-the-average-bear image. The new Ford Focuses get eighteen miles to the gallon on low-speed city streets, which equates to a 35-40 percent reduction in fuel costs and a comparable reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Ferndale’s fleet got the green light from its Environmental Sustainability Commission, an appointed group comprised of volunteers from the community working in many different fields who support an array of causes. In 2008, the commission included a suggestion to update Ferndale’s fleet among its recommendations to Ferndale’s city council.
“Our purpose is to advise city council on ways to influence municipal policy to be friendlier to the environment. We’ve also added an educational component—we have workshops and try to attract people from the community to learn how to be better stewards of the environment,” explains Environmental Sustainability Commission member Leslie Coxon, an engineer by trade.
The Environmental Sustainability Commission started when former Sierra Club Cool Cities initiative organizer Leigh Fifelski, who was a Ferndale resident, worked with the city to create the commission and get them on the Cool Cities bandwagon. The Cool Cities Program is led by volunteers and is a collaborative effort between community members, organizations, businesses, and local leaders to implement clean energy solutions.
Photiades suggests being green “is a part of the image that we have in this city—that we are a progressive city, that we’ve got a lot of young people who have moved in. This is a partnership between government and its citizens to not only save money, but to do things for the environment.”
Freeing up big money and saving some dough, while keeping municipal service vehicles in the service of the Ferndale community, were big motivators to rethinking the way the city managed its fleet. The city was able to figure out a workable plan that will save money, which also aims to support their green and local-minded residents’ attitudes.
Jennifer Eberbach is a freelance journalist and professional copywriter. You may contact her at 734-929-2964 or j[email protected]. Visit her online at www.jenthewriter.info.