If all goes as planned, the Scarborough Public Works Department will soon be providing fleet maintenance services to the city of Westbrook and the town of Old Orchard Beach.
The Scarborough Town Council was scheduled to approve inter-local agreements with the three communities when it met on Wednesday, after the Current’s print deadline. The service would begin at the start of the new fiscal year, July 1.
Without the necessary staff or equipment on hand, the communities of Westbrook and Old Orchard Beach have been sending their vehicles out to private, commercial mechanics when their fire trucks or police cruisers need to be fixed or receive a tuneup.
Scarborough will charge the other two communities an hourly rate of $55.23 to provide vehicle technician services, and will also ask for a markup of between 10 and 15 percent for any parts that must be ordered and installed.
In a memo provided to the Town Council prior to this week’s meeting, Town Manager Tom Hall said that earlier this year, the town was approached by Old Orchard Beach and Westbrook “regarding the possibility of providing vehicle maintenance services for their fire and rescue fleets. Apparently neither town has the staff or facilities to perform this work.”
After evaluating both the staffing and the space at Scarborough Public Works, Hall said the town determined it would be able to offer the services being requested by its other two neighboring communities.
The initial agreement is for one year, through June 30, 2017, but would be renewed automatically, with yearly rate increases, unless any of the parties decides the arrangement is no longer working.
“I am excited to provide an important service to Westbrook and Old Orchard Beach that will provide a reliable fleet for both communities, while providing the town of Scarborough some revenue. This relationship benefits all parties involved,” said Mike Shaw, Scarborough’s director of public works.
According to Jerre Bryant, Westbrook city administrator, “The budgetary choice was to either increase staffing or continue to outsource much of our fire equipment to private repair facilities. The Scarborough option allows us to reduce the cost of outsourcing our fire department work (and) keep our current staffing levels.”
He said that Westbrook has one maintenance technician for the entire police and fire department fleets and while he “is a very capable mechanic and does excellent work, there is only one of him, which has required the city to increase its outsourcing of repairs for our fire equipment in recent years.”
Bryant added that even with a new, well-equipped fleet maintenance facility opening in Westbrook this fall, “we would still be outsourcing much of the fire apparatus. (The arrangement with Scarborough) frees up enough time for our one mechanic to better serve the needs of the police department,” while also providing some extra time to maintain other municipally owned vehicles.
This is not the only inter-local service Scarborough provides to its neighbors. The town also provides emergency dispatching for Old Orchard Beach’s first responders and assessing services to the town of Cape Elizabeth.
For the fleet maintenance arrangement, Shaw said, Scarborough Public Works would be hiring one new technician to handle the additional workload.
Even so, both Hall and Shaw said Scarborough would be receiving enough revenue to make the arrangement worthwhile, while the communities of Westbrook and Old Orchard Beach would save some cash.
Bill Donovan, chairman of the Scarborough Town Council, said this week that the inter-local agreements “are very positive for Scarborough and may pay dividends in other areas.”
Although he has not had the chance to informally poll the other councilors on their thoughts, Donovan is expecting the council to approve both contracts when its meets on Wednesday.
Hall said the hourly rate charged for mechanic services is based on the arrangement “not costing Scarborough taxpayers anything” and said the rates and fees being charged to Westbrook and Old Orchard Beach would “more than cover our expenses.”
Hall said the arrangement is good for Scarborough “because it fosters cooperation, which we may be on the receiving end of in the future. As a matter of routine now when we have a need, rather than simply hiring staff, we look for opportunities to partner with others and ideally save money in the process.”
Shaw said his vehicle maintenance staff consists of eight technicians, which handles the maintenance and repair of 200 pieces of municipal equipment, from snow plows to school buses.
“The staff here at public works is very well trained and is familiar with the special systems on fire and rescue equipment,” he said. “We are able to perform any repairs needed on the chassis and specialized systems that are on any modern vehicle.”
Shaw also said that Scarborough has enough bay space at the public works garage, “so there will not be any addition to the existing building.”
Shaw said it’s better to provide fleet maintenance in-house, when possible, because “by (doing it) in house we are able to detect possible vehicle break downs before they happen. This in turn saves money and just as importantly it keeps specialized equipment on the road where it can be put to work.
“The consistency of care the vehicles receive makes them more reliable than if we jobbed (the work) out to a repair shop. In the end, when you factor in the preventive work we do, the price shopping for parts done by the storeroom manager and the warranty tracking we do, money is being saved.”
On Wednesday the Scarborough Town Council will also weigh a request from Bayley’s Lobster Pound to allow overflow parking from the business to use the town-owned parking lot at Hurd Park in Pine Point.
The fleet maintenance bay at Scarborough Public Works. The town will soon be fixing fire trucks and police cruisers for the city of Westbrook and the town of Old Orchard Beach.