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City looks at ways to improve fleet

By Staff | Jan 15, 2013

City Manager John Szerlag wants the city of Cape Coral to have one of the top fleets in the nation, just as it was in 2005.

And the best way to get there could be to replace some of the vehicles it bought in 2005, or earlier, and to have someone in charge to keep track of it all.

Szerlag, Police Chief Jay Murphy, Fire Chief Bill Van Helden, and members of city staff and employees got together to hash out ideas to make the city’s fleet strong again, and the results of those meetings were presented to council during its workshop meeting Monday at city hall.

Szerlag said the city didn’t have a Top 100 designation because it lacked capital funding to replace aging vehicles, nor did they have someone who could be held accountable for the condition of the fleet of police, fire and other city vehicles.

To attain that goal again, Murphy identified the ways to do that by looking deep into what the city had in terms of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (an analysis dubbed SWOT) then by adapting best practices, such as knowing when to replace and acquire new assets, and setting long- medium- and short-term goals for the city to meet.

Murphy said the meetings were very enlightening and highlighted the reality that fleet management was ignored for years.

“The fleet was the stepchild of the city. It wasn’t properly funded and it’s not council’s fault. A lot of people share the blame,” Murphy said. “Nobody on the staff has the capacity, knowledge of skills, to fix this. The way to do it is with a fleet manager.”

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz shared a story with Murphy how in 2009 the city couldn’t account for what it owned.

“As of this evening, are you 100 percent certain we can account for all our assets and that they’re properly insured?” Leetz asked.

“I’m 95 percent sure. Do I know where active police cars are? Yes. Out of service? No,” Murphy answered. “I know we’re self-insured.”

“When you’re a Top 100 fleet, you know what you have,” Szerlag added.

One of the biggest assets to becoming a top fleet again, most agreed, was the purchase of new fuel management software the city made recently, which allows the city to know where every drop is going and find ways to conserve it.

“We never monitored what came in from suppliers, now we can monitor it 24/7 from software, what goes in, what comes out,” Mayor John Sullivan said. “Fuel can be checked remotely. It can be delivered at 3 a.m. and we’ll know.”

Van Helden said the best thing that came out of the meetings was that everyone was able to compromise and it worked. He also said it was time to allow people to feel good about what they do, which was identified as being a real thorn.

“It was a great way to work through difficult subjects, stuff that wouldn’t have come out otherwise,” Van Helden said. “We have people who take great pride in what they do. Those guys represent the heart of the city.”

Szerlag said he wants to get a job description for a new fleet administrator by the end of the week for council consideration.