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Provo police officer Kawai Kauo poses for a portrait in his patrol car at the Provo Police Department on Friday, Feb 28, 2020. (Natalie Behring, special to the Daily Herald)

Before the stop sign goes up on budget discussions and the budget is yielded over to the mayor, the Provo Municipal Council heard a forecast from the Public Works Department on the city’s fleet of vehicles.

The bottom line, and where the rubber meets the road, is that costs are going up. One of the biggest reasons for the increase is being fueled by hybrid vehicles being purchased by the city, according to Warren Merritt, fleet manager.

Merritt said in Fiscal Year 2022 the city will need to purchase 42 replacement vehicles, with the police department receiving 20 of those. All of the police cars will be hybrid.

In fact, the five-year forecast is for the police department to purchase 20 hybrid cars a year for the next five years, according to the budget proposal.

The projected fleet costs for FY2022 is approximately $2.8 million, with a total of $14.2 million over the next five years.

“We are asking for an additional $89K to be added to the base budget to cover recommended General Fund Fleet replacements in FY 2022,” Merritt said.

Fleet purchases come from loans taken from the General Fund and are paid back to that fund. Maintenance, oil changes and other costs are absorbed by the individual department’s budgets.

Public Works is currently responsible for 830 vehicles or pieces of equipment from lawn mowers to garbage trucks the city owns, Merritt said.

A Fleet Advisory Committee was formed in 2014 and meets throughout the year to discuss the vehicle needs of the city.

A Mercury and Associates Utilization Analysis has helped the committee to determine correct fleet size, vehicle and equipment replacement cycles based on mileage/hours, age, and duty cycle.

“For example, due to the extreme duty cycles that are demanded of a Ford Explorer patrol vehicle it will have a shorter service life than an Explorer used for administrative purposes,” Merritt said.

Using data from a Mercury and Associates analysis, the Fleet Advisory Committee members are able to evaluate their department fleet needs for the next five years.

There are challenges impacting fleet funding, according to Merritt. Advanced technology and other inflationary increases on the cost of vehicles is causing a forecast of a 4% annual inflation rate on vehicle and upfit costs.

“Alternative Fuel upgrade increases cost about $4,500 per vehicle,” Merritt said. “Due to advanced technology it is now feasible to replace more vehicles with alternative fuel vehicles.”

While it saves money in the long run, the upfront costs are higher, Merritt noted.

According to Merritt’s report to the council city, vehicles are being pushed beyond replacement life resulting in increased maintenance, repair costs and downtime.

“We have a growing number of vehicles that are beyond life, costing a lot for us to maintain,” Merritt said.

While some members of the council had questions and need for clarification, the budget request is now ready to be submitted with the full budget request to Mayor Michelle Kaufusi and her budget team. They will have the next month to work on the finalized budget.

That budget then goes back to the council for discussion and any revisions. It is to be voted on by the second meeting in June. The fiscal year begins July 1.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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