County Seal

LITTLE VALLEY — The 2018 Cattaraugus County budget reflects a savings of nearly $400,000 by leasing rather than purchasing 31 vehicles outright.

The vehicles range from ¾ ton pickup trucks for the Public Works Department to a van for the Department of the Aging to Sheriff’s Department police interceptors. The leases are for up to five years

The move to lease a portion of the 121 vehicles in the county’s fleet came in a resolution for immediate consideration at the last County Legislature meeting of 2017.

Legislative leaders won unanimous approval for their proposed lease of the vehicles from Enterprise Fleet Management, Rochester, by piggybacking on an existing competitive contract with Orange County. The lease payments for this year will be $198,428 for nine months. The vehicles are expected to be received by the county in April.

Department heads had initially requested 18 vehicles in the 2018 budget costing about $588,520. The leases will cost $198,428, a savings of $390,091, explained County Administrator Jack Searles.

A representative of Enterprise Fleet Management made a presentation last year to members of the Cattaraugus County Legislature’s Public Works and Fleet Management committees.

After several county lawmakers expressed interest in looking into the proposal, Searles, Deputy Administrator Kelly Reed and Deputy Budget Director Ryan Ferguson, investigated the issue further. It involved negotiations with company to tailor the lease program to the county’s needs.

“The Legislature was very interested in what they (Enterprise) had to say,” Searles said in an interview Wednesday. “We got our questions answered in time for the 2018 budget.”

Searles said county officials checked with other counties with experience leasing through Enterprise including Allegany, Orange, Seneca and St. Lawrence counties. “They all had large fleets. It can be a big hit on a budget if you purchase a lot of vehicles in one year,” he said.

It’s not just the lower lease payment that makes the deal attractive, but the decreased maintenance costs that come with high-mileage older vehicles, Searles said.

In addition, maintenance on the 31 vehicles is included in the lease payments and can be done at any of about 75 repair shops in the county Enterprise has contracts with.

“It frees up garage time for mechanics to work on heavy equipment,” Searles said, adding it shifts leased vehicle maintenance to private sector repair shops without affecting mechanics employment.

It will also give the Sheriff’s Department reliable new vehicles swapped out on a regular timeline, the county administrator said. Those vehicles will be replaced on a mileage basis.

“The Sheriff’s Department is thrilled,” Reed commented. The police interceptors will be replacing high-mileage models which are high maintenance. The Public Works garage will continue to service sheriff’s vehicles.

“We’re focused on the ¾ ton pickup truck and below and other fleet-type vehicles, not heavy equipment,” Searles said.

The price the vehicles sell for at auction will be deducted from the lease payments.

“We’ll give this a try and see if it works,” Searles said. “It’s a trial run. We didn’t put all our eggs in one basket. If it works, we may look to expanding in to other vehicles.”

The county administrator said called the move “an experiment,” the results of which will determine whether the leased vehicle program grows.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)