The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has been doing its own mechanic work to save money by not having to outsource costly repairs, and Sheriff Tim Fuller told the County Commission on July 20 that the savings since March have exceeded $30,000.
Fuller told the commission that it had requested documentation about the savings and he provided a list of the work done and said the savings were substantial.
“I just wanted to make sure you were aware of that,” he told the commission.
However, Commissioner Adam Casey questioned how the savings estimates were made and said some of the work done might not accurately reflect how much the county might have paid to outsource the projects.
Casey referred to a battery being changed on a 2017 Chevy Tahoe that totaled $335.46 with the battery costing $136.95.
“I don’t see how there’s $200 in labor,” Casey said, adding that batteries on most vehicles are easily accessed and quickly changed.
Fuller said the vehicle has two batteries in it, and the project was more labor intensive than Casey initially thought it might be.
Casey also referred to an oil pressure sensor changed on a 2013 Chevy Tahoe that included a $393.96 overall estimated cost with a $52.05 cost for the part. He added that the estimate seemed high.
“If we’re going to compare apples to apples, we need accurate data,” Casey said, adding that reporting the savings to the commission is, in essence, a report card on how much the Sheriff’s Office, with its own mechanic, is saving the county money.
When the commission approved the addition of the mechanic position in March, Commissioner David Eldridge said if the Finance Committee and the commission were to approve the request, the department has to reduce the line item it spends on repairs accordingly.
He said the expenses need to be carefully monitored to ensure the move is saving the county money.
County Mayor David Alexander cautioned that if the change doesn’t save money, the department would face consequences, the mechanic position could be abandoned and someone could lose their job.
“If you want to do this, you have to show us it saved money,” he said. “There has to be consequences.”
Fuller and Capt. Greg Lewis, who handles the department’s purchasing duties, approached the Finance Committee at its March 3 meeting with a request totaling $108,608 to fund a mechanic’s position and equip a 64-by-40-foot section in the Franklin County Jail’s annex area with mechanical repair equipment.
The County Commission later approved a budget amendment so that the money for the project will be coming from the Sheriff’s Office general budget instead of the jail’s budget.
Kyle King, who had been a corrections officer and has mechanical experience, has been assigned to the mechanic position.
The personnel request approved by the Finance Committee totaled $57,800, including $42,000 in annual salary and $15,800 in benefits.
The cost to equip the shop area is $50,800, and items include a tire changer; a high-capacity tire balancer; two 7,000-pound capacity bridge jacks; an 80-gallon, 7.5-horsepower air compressor; and a 120-gallon air tank.
Fuller had said that although the department has an annual mechanical budget totaling $140,000, repair costs have approached $200,000 in given years.
He added that because the department’s vehicles are government-owned, mechanics have charged more than they would for individuals owning private vehicles.
“We’ve seen things that would have shocked the consciousness of the public,” he said, referring to some of the costs his department has been assessed for mechanical repairs.
Lewis echoed Fuller’s position about the department coming out ahead financially by doing its own repairs.
“If we get the stuff we need, we can save some money,” he told the Finance Committee.