MADEIRA BEACH – The city will begin a program to lease rather than buy city vehicles.

Called the Fleet Management Plan, it will be run by Enterprise Fleet Management. That company also owns Enterprise Car Rentals.

City commissioners decided Nov. 9 to start the program.

City Manager Jonathan Evans said the leasing plan is “a very sound way to manage our fleet.”

The plan was originally presented and discussed at the commission’s Sept. 25 workshop. At that time, Enterprise Fleet Management Business Development Manager Jeffrey Harbaugh said the rental agreement offers the city the opportunity to modernize its fleet and save money.

The plan would gradually replace the existing 17 city-owned vehicles with leased inventory. By 2024, when the entire city fleet would be replaced, the city would pay about $106,000 a year in lease payments for all 17 vehicles, compared to a typical cost now of $150,000 a year to replace four trucks.

Harbaugh said the leasing plan provides newer vehicles with safety features, lower fuel and maintenance costs, and, in most cases, “the city will spend less on the vehicles than you’re now spending.” The age of the vehicles is reduced, and maintenance costs are lowered by 70 percent or more “because the only maintenance needed is to change the oil.”

During the first year of the lease plan agreement, Finance Director Walter Pierce said seven vehicles that were targeted for replacement in 2018 and 2019, but not purchased, will be leased instead. The city currently has $237,000 in the Capital Improvement Program budgeted for vehicle purchases. Under the lease program “a large portion of that money will not be spent,” Pierce said.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the fleet management plan and rental agreement. In a rare show of unity, Mayor Maggi Black, Commissioners Nancy Hodges, Nancy Oakley and Deby Weinstein were all in favor. Commissioner John Douthirt was not at the meeting.

Drainage control, utility undergrounding projects move forward, but costs increase

The commission approved bid awards needed to underground utility wires on Gulf Boulevard from 150th to 144th Avenue, and to continue the ongoing roadway reconstruction and drainage improvement project on 137th Avenue Circle, Plymouth Street and Salem Street.

Both projects had been delayed, while material and insurance costs were rising, Evans said. The contractors have requested a 15 percent increase to their original bids to cover those increased costs, he said.

The utility undergrounding on Gulf Boulevard is part of a project paid for by county Penny for Pinellas funds. So, the city will not pay the added cost. The road and drainage project is partially paid for with a matching grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District. It includes new stormwater inlets, stormwater culverts, curbing, asphalt resurfacing and check valves.

That job is expensive. The project cost is about $1.3 million, with the water management district providing almost $470,000. That leaves about $840,000 for the city to pay.

Evans said the utility undergrounding was delayed due to difficulties with the contractor and with Duke Energy. The road improvement/drainage project was held up because the previous work on Boca Ciega and Rex Place took longer than expected. There was a broken water pipe that had to be replaced and some other problems, he said.

“We’ve had some challenges,” Evans said, but he urged a quick approval of both projects.

“Time is of the essence. Costs will keep going up, and the faster we get the shovels in the ground, the better,” he said.

Of the 15 percent cost increases added to the bids, Evans also said there is a 10 percent contingency built into the bids, so the city may only see a 5 percent cost overrun.

The commission unanimously voted to approve the bid awards for both the drainage control project on 137th Circle and the Gulf Boulevard undergrounding, despite the cost increases.

“It has to be done,” Commissioner Weinstein said.

Qualifying period begins Dec. 12

Two commission seats are up for election at the March 12 municipal election. The seats are in District 3, currently held by Nancy Oakley, and District 4, held by John Douthirt. Both have said they will run for re-election. The qualifying period begins Dec.12 and ends Jan. 11.