Village might opt to lease its fleet

RANTOUL — Village board members said they want to hear more about a proposed leasing program that would gradually replace the village’s aging fleet of vehicles.

Benjamin Stahl of Enterprise Fleet Management presented a cursory proposal that noted that the average age of the village’s vehicles at 14.3 years.

Speaking at last week’s village board study session, Stahl said operating older vehicles is more expensive due to higher maintenance costs, lower gas mileage  and an increased chance of breakdowns.

He said the village operates about 60 vehicles that would be eligible for the lease program, traveling an average of 6,200 miles a year. Stahl’s proposal would call for replacement of 18 vehicles the first year, gradually reducing the number of older vehicles in the fleet.

“The principle is you’re leveraging the benefits of the depreciation and maintenance curves,” Village Administrator Rick Snider said. “When you buy a car, what happens? It depreciates.”

Stahl said under the municipal lease program, the village develops equity ownership in the vehicle as it’s paid down.

“If you had to sell the vehicle or move the vehicle, you’d be in a good position to do that,” Stahl said.

He said the vehicles would come with standard warranties.

Snider said the plan is to reduce the fleet from 60 to 55 vehicles. It is estimated the program would save the village about $500,000 over 10 years.

The municipalities of Freeport and Monmouth have contracted with Enterprise on the program, Stahl said.

Utility study
Public Works Director Greg Hazel asked the board to approve a utility rate study by Utility Financial Services at a cost of $35,400.

The request sparked several board members’ comments — some saying they are not in favor of raising utility rates. Hazel said the study would be to determine the village’s utility costs and that any rates, whether up, down or neutral, would be up to the village board.

Hazel said the village typically examines its electric utility rates every three years, and the last one was done in 2014 with a 2017 adjustment, while the last wastewater review, which is typically done every five years, occurred in 2013 with an adjustment also in 2017.

Trustee Rich Medlen said he would like to see the rates drop if the study shows that is economically feasible.

Said trustee Terry Workman:  “We’re going to spend $35,000 on a study. (Being a newcomer to the board), what came out of the study three years ago?”  

Hazel said the village hiked electric rates by 3 percent per year, and “that offset costs of labor and electricity.”

Trustee Chad Smith said he is uncomfortable with the possibility of a rate hike.

“We went over this three years ago,” Smith said. “It bothers me that we’re going back through this already, and in the past four years we’ve increased all utility rates; we’ve done our garbage under one person. We’ve increased a lot of rates here in a very short time because we needed to catch up. At what point do we start looking at our efficiencies?”

He said the village continues to stress economic development and growing the community.

“How do we continue to raise the rates on the people we have here? Why don’t we keep the rates we have here and have more people pay the rates ... and not just stick it to 13,000 people?”

Smith said he doesn’t think the board should look at the rates at this point.

Snider said the study “looks at your long-term capital expenditures so you don’t get in a hole. Looking at the budget, the expenditures and utilities relative to the receipts, I believe it would be good to do the study. We don’t want to get into trouble with our finances because we’re not (charging) enough to pay our costs.”

Trustee Jennifer Fox said it would be good to “see where we are” in terms of costs and rates.

Mayor Chuck Smith stressed that conducting the study doesn’t mean the village is going to raise the rates.

“It’s saying that we want to make sure we’re financially solvent,” Chuck Smith said.

Trustee Hank Gamel asked if there will be any reduction in costs to the village from the technological improvements that have been made such as automated meters.

Hazel said he believes the process “will make it more efficient.”

Hazel reiterated there is “no foregone conclusion that the rates will go up” and any rate changes will be up to the board.

Chamber update
Rantoul Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Belynda Allen updated the board on chamber activities.

She said it is important from time to time to remind everyone that the chamber is “not a department of government, political body or a public relations agency. The chamber is an economic development organization that has a major impact on business, income and future growth of the area.”

In addition to Rantoul, the chamber services 10 other area communities.

Allen noted the chamber has been restructured and has tightened its bottom line. As a result, she said the chamber did not hire an assistant director since she was hired six months ago.

Office hours have also been changed. The chamber office, located downtown, is open 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 3-5 p.m. by appointment. She said it is best to call or email her before coming to the office to make sure she is in.

As a cost-cutting measure, the chamber board has eliminated or downsized events that were not profitable or that cost RACC “unnecessary dollars or RACC staff hours.” One example is the Fall Festival.

“At the end of the day, we are here to help our member businesses and organizations and to be an economic development aid in our community,” Allen said. “We are not here to be an events-planning organization.”

She said the chamber will keep events that help it “as an organization to offer more services to our members.”

Firefighter fees
Fire Chief Ken Waters asked the board to increase fire department fees in two areas.

One is for calls on Interstate 57.

“The fire department is responding to more calls on the interstate,” Waters said, noting that the current fee structure is not covering costs.

He proposed that fees be increased to $250 per vehicle per hour or a fraction thereof and that the personnel charge would increase to $70 per hour per responding member.

Waters said the fees would not apply to homeowners outside the village limits who have signed a fire response agreement with the department.

The second increase is for owners whose property lies outside the village limits.

Currently owners there pay $25 per calendar year for property containing any building, structure or mobile home. If there is none, the owner pays $5 plus 10 cents per acre.

That amounts to $56 per vehicle per hour or a fraction thereof and $18 per responding member for the first four hours and $18 per hour per responding member.

Waters asked the board to increase the yearly fee from 2019-2022 to $31, $37, $43 and $50. The fee for no property would increase for the next four years to $6 and 12 cents per acre; $7 and 15 cents; $8 and 18 cents and $9 and 20 cents.

The vehicle charge would increase to $75 per vehicle per hour or a fraction thereof, and the personnel charge will be $25 per responding member for the first four hours and $25 per hour per responding member.

In other business:
— Comptroller Pat Chamberlin asked that the village enter into an intergovernmental agreement with State Comptroller’s Office for local debt recovery for such items as outstanding parking tickets, utility bills and ordinance violation charges, at no cost to the village.

The money would be paid from income tax refunds, state employee paychecks, state vendor contracts and lottery payments. Chamberlin said the collection effort would be for those individuals from whom the village has already attempted to collect.

Snider said the county entered such an agreement and was able to bring in $600,000.

— Hazel asked the board to approve a $3,300 contract with Tank Industry Consultants to conduct an interior study of the Galaxy Drive water tank while it is full.
Divers will be used to conduct the study.

— Wendell Golston, Concerned Citizens of Rantoul president, thanked trustee Sam Hall for “his initiative” with a recent stop-the-violence march.

“I think it was something that we needed,” Golston said. “I think the timing was right.”

Golston said those marching received positive feedback as they marched and knocked on doors. He also thanked Police Chief Tony Brown for a police presence during the walk.

— Golston also informed the board that he would be bringing the names of several people that he would like the village to consider to recognize in the form of honorary street sign designations.

— Brown asked the board to waive the bidding requirements for construction of a new METRO SWAT storage garage in Urbana to replace an existing building that will be torn down.

Rantoul’s police department is one of six that are members of the METRO unit. Last May, the village of Rantoul agreed to “hold the money” for the unit. Consequently, any call to waive the bidding requirements must come from the village board. Brown said the storage building is staying in Urbana because of its central location in the county.

— The board was asked to affirm the appointment of Cynthia Rouse to the Citizens Advisory Committee for a term to expire in 2021.

— Chamberlin asked that the village again hire Crowe Horwath to conduct the village audit at a cost of $76,950.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com

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