Colwood council gets a lesson in bureaucracy

Colwood councillors were bewildered by a series of events that led to the City spending $1,000 per month to rent a pickup truck

  • Jan. 6, 2012 5:00 p.m.

Colwood councillors were bewildered by a series of events that led to the City spending $1,000 per month to rent a pickup truck for its public works manager, while money was sitting in a reserve fund to buy replacement vehicles.

Last year the City spent $10,000 renting a truck worth $30,000.

It didn’t take the new council long to realize it needed to remedy this situation. At its Dec. 19 meeting, council gave the nod to staff to buy a new vehicle right away.

There was some discussion about waiting for staff to prepare a report on replacement options, but ultimately council decided not to delay the decision any longer.

“This has dragged on long enough already,” Coun. Rob Martin said before putting forward the motion to forgo the report and buy the truck as soon as possible.

Coun. Shari Lukens agreed, remarking, “We need a truck, we have the money allocated to buy a truck, and we’re still going to need the truck a month from now, if we wait for a report.”

Council put a $30,000 spending cap on the new vehicle, and asked staff to consider buying a good used vehicle rather than a new one.

The last council had declined to buy any new vehicles until it had a full equipment replacement strategy, including figures on exactly how much each vehicle was being used and for what purpose.

But the City only recently obtained the proper computer software to track this information, and according to engineering director Michael Baxter the earliest this report could be ready is March 2012.

Last February, shortly after the council of the day called for the replacement strategy, the 17-year-old pickup truck used by public works manager Dan Brazier broke down and couldn’t be repaired.

Without approval to buy a new one, Baxter made the decision to rent the truck, rather than see public works fall behind on its tasks by going without.

Coun. Judith Cullington, chair for the transportation and public infrastructure committee, supported the immediate purchase of a pickup truck, but advised that the money in the vehicle replacement fund should be used sparingly.

“There are a great many vehicles in the City’s fleet that are close to or passed their replacement date,” Cullington cautioned. “We need the replacement strategy to make sure we’re getting the best value for our money.”

Included in the strategy will be comparative pricing for vehicles with hybrid, diesel and gasoline engines, so council will be able to compare costs of a vehicle over its lifespan, given projected increases in the price of gas and the city’s commitment to pay a carbon tax on its emissions.

For the ease of the current purchase, however, council advised staff to choose the cheapest option, a gasoline engine.

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