Hoover, Pelham to combine vehicle maintenance, repair services

PELHAM – The Pelham and Hoover city councils approved a groundbreaking agreement between the neighboring cities at their respective council meetings held Monday, Dec. 17.

The cities agreed to enter into a five-year inter-local agreement for the purpose of contracting services for the maintenance and repair of all Pelham vehicles. Pelham City Manager Gretchen DiFante said Hoover will be performing maintenance and repairs on Pelham’s fleet of vehicles.

Hoover’s garage will now equally service Pelham and Hoover vehicles, she said. The agreement will take effect Feb. 1, 2019.

“Hoover has a professional fleet manager, something that a city our size would have a difficult time funding,” DiFante said. “A fleet manager evaluates how vehicles perform and can make assessments about changes that need to be made. They have fleet software that’s able to track everything performed on a vehicle and run reports to see what maintenance will be needed for a vehicle.”

The Hoover fleet manager will also be able to make recommendations to Pelham regarding vehicle replacements based on his expertise and knowledge of Pelham’s fleet as he oversees maintenance over time. The turnaround time on vehicle repairs is also expected to improve for Pelham. DiFante said Hoover will gain access to a mechanic with fire apparatus experience.

“Hoover needs a mechanic with fire apparatus experience,” she said. “We have a highly skilled mechanic and he will be a very valuable asset. It does benefit Hoover to have him available.”

Pelham and Hoover have been in talks for about eight months trying to iron out the details of the agreement. The idea to share resources came at the suggestion of Pelham Mayor Gary Waters who had been studying Pelham’s garage operations and knew something needed to be done to improve efficiency.

“All the credit goes to Mayor Waters,” DiFante said. “This was his brain child.”

There is a one-time service fee of $35,000 for Pelham that will be billed in installments of $7,000 over the five-year contract period. Pelham will also pay a 5-percent administrative fee that’s based on the total cost of services rendered under the contract on an annual basis. The administrative fee also allows the Hoover fleet manager to utilize fleet management software to track all work performed on vehicles owned by Pelham.

Pelham will reimburse Hoover for the annual cost of its Garage Keeper’s Liability Insurance and will be billed quarterly for any parts purchased for Pelham vehicles. It is estimated that Pelham will see a savings of about $200,000 per year as a result of the agreement. DiFante said the city’s exact savings will be tracked.

Pelham’s garage currently has four employees. DiFante said Hoover will have to hire two additional mechanics to help handle the extra work. The city of Pelham will be responsible for paying for the salary, benefits, uniforms and any training needed for both employees.

DiFante said the Pelham employees are eligible and have been encouraged to apply for the two Hoover positions. Any Pelham employees left without a job will be first in line to be hired for a different position they qualify for.

The Pelham City Council passed the resolution unanimously at their meeting and the Hoover City Council passed their resolution with a vote of 6 to 1. Hoover council president Gene Smith voted against the resolution citing concerns about uncertainties regarding insurance reimbursements among other things.

“The mayor (Frank Brocato) has worked really hard to put together an agreement that is going to help Hoover, but it’s really going to help Pelham,” Smith said at Hoover’s meeting. “Like I’ve said before, I have nothing against them but they’re probably going to save a quarter of a million to $300,000 a year and we’re only going to get $14,000 out of it, other than reimbursement. Personally, I just have issues about that.”

Hoover administrator Allan Rice responded to Smith’s concerns and said the agreement is about more than dollars and cents.

“We don’t think by any means we’d lose anything and they’ve agreed to come back and revisit this at our request,” Rice said. “If we see that our associated costs are greater than what we thought, they’ve agreed to come back to the table and renegotiate. I don’t think Pelham has any inclination whatsoever to try to take advantage of the city in this.”

Pelham Council President Rick Hayes said the agreement is an opportunity to be more efficient and save taxpayer money. He said the idea of merging resources is not a new one although it is not done much in the greater Birmingham area.

“We can operate in a unified way when possible and where it makes sense,” he said. “We’re excited about the possibilities moving forward.”