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City Fleet Not Seeing Savings on Outsourced Maintenance

February 23, 2006

In Pittsburgh, a privately run garage for city vehicles has not yet lived up to the promise to save the city $3 million a year, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.The city awarded a garage operations contract worth $4.3 million in its first year to First Vehicle Services in hopes of reducing spiraling vehicle maintenance costs that exceeded $6 million in 2004. Fleet maintenance has improved, Chet Malesky, deputy director of General Services, told the Tribune-Review. Yet a preliminary city financial analysis shows the change might have saved about $1.35 million, he said.First Vehicle was permitted to spend $3.79 million the first year of its contract, which ends March 1, but its spending will exceed $5 million.Jake Harvey, a general manager for a First Vehicle garage, said the lower savings occurred partly because the city neglected maintenance on its 995-vehicle fleet for years, creating extra expenses. Repairs that carried over from 2004 and other unforeseen costs, such as accident repairs, amounted to $1.16 million, he said.Harvey said he's proud of First Vehicle's work, including new training for mechanics and a strict maintenance schedule for all vehicles. Yet city workers who drive city cars have complained that vehicles repaired at the garage are returned with the same or new problems.Todd Fischera, business representative for International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Local 52, which represents First Vehicle's 24 mechanics, said First Vehicle Services looked over the fleet before they put in the bid. "They should have known about the deplorable condition of the fleet," he said in the report.Some union workers are unhappy with the reforms First Vehicle brought to the garage and don't like the company's pension plan, Fischera said. Nine veteran mechanics have applied to return to work for the city as laborers.Fischera told the newspaper he plans to give City Council reports that show First Vehicle has cut corners, such as asking mechanics to put state inspection stickers on cars that don't meet specifications and patching a high-performance tire on a police car, which he said is both dangerous and illegal.
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