BELEN — Belen taxpayers will no longer be shelling out money to pay for brand new city-owned vehicles. Instead, the city has entered into a lease contract for vehicles to better manage its aging fleet.

Charles Eaton, the city’s administrative support director, told the city council there are 75 vehicles in the city’s fleet, not including the fire department’s suppression units. Of those, Eaton said 31 percent of city-owned vehicles are “of serious age and have a lot of high mileage.” He said the condition of these vehicles creates a lot of maintenances cost to the city.

“In the meantime, we’ve had to replace two or three with new vehicles, and we purchased them for $30 to $40,000, depending on the particular components of the vehicles,” Eaton said. “It’s made a financial impact on the departments.”

The city’s director reached out to several different leasing companies, including Enterprise Fleet Management, who, he said, has programs specifically dealing with government entities.

After speaking with Eaton, representatives from Enterprise proposed replacing 16 of the city’s most aged vehicles with brand new, leased vehicles.

“Those are our oldest vehicles with the greatest amount of mileage,” Eaton said. “Some are half ton trucks … and if we don’t do something quick with our fleet, we’re going to have some serious problems with those vehicles.”

Eaton pointed to the city’s public works department in which there is a vehicle that is more than 20 years old with more than 100,000 miles. Another one has 80,000 miles, and the city has had to pay for a lot of maintenance on it.

With the new leased vehicles, Eaton said each one will be equipped with a GPS devise so he can track the mileage.

Robert Braidich, an account executive with Enterprise Fleet Management, told the council their overall objective in starting a partnership with the city of Belen is to utilize an equity lease program, meaning there are no early termination, mileage or abnormal wear-and-tear penalties.

“We will be able to replace 16 vehicles in our initial transaction, and the lease will include non-preventative and preventative maintenance on these vehicles, so if anything were to happen outside the normal wear and tear, that would be covered under the duration of that lease,” Braidich said. “I know one of the missions of the city is to shop locally, so we did go ahead add one of the city’s preferred maintenance providers onto our procurement contract.”

Mayor-elect Robert Noblin asked if the leased vehicles provided by the company would be used or new. Braidich told him all vehicles provided to the city would be new, and the lease would eliminate the dealer markup.

Noblin also asked if the insurance premiums would increase under the lease agreement, and Eaton said he has checked with the city’s insurance company and said premiums would remain the same.

“They actually encouraged it because it would be a new vehicle and have safety factors,” Eaton said. “The program would help the fleet over time, in that we would rotate all 75 vehicles through the duration of the contract, and each vehicle would be replaced within a three-to-four year span.”

Braidich said it is estimated the city could reduce its overall fleet budget by $590,000 in the next 10 years.

Eaton told the News-Bulletin the Enterprise quote went down a few dollars because the city will be getting the vehicles from an actual dealership in Colorado rather than from the manufacturer.

The original quote was $596 per unit, but it will now cost $594.97 per month for 16, 2022 4×4 Ford 150 pickup trucks. The lease will cost city taxpayers $7,140 a year for each vehicle. Eaton expects to start leasing the new vehicles in March or April.

In comparison, the city bought two Dodge Ram 1500 trucks in March at a cost of $32,000 each.

The council approved the contract unanimously.

In other business, the council recently:

  • Approved amendments to its subdivision ordinance, including increasing fees for developers, and the plat approval process.
  • Awarded the contract for on-call engineering for the airport to Molzen Corbin.
  • Approved a resolution for a grant agreement for the cost overrun funding for USDA funding of Well No. 8 arsenic project.
  • Approved the final cost, $5.6 million, of the construction cost of the new Magistrate/Municipal Court building. Bradbury Stamm has been hired by the Administrative Office of the Courts, who will be paying for the construction, while the city of Belen is acting as the fiscal agent for the project.
  • Approved a memorandum of understanding with the Valencia County Elections Bureau to allow video surveillance cameras where secured containers of received voted mailed ballots are held during elections.
  • Approved changing the signatories for the city of Belen’s bank account from Mayor Jerah Cordova to Mayor-elect Robert Noblin.
  • Approved its 2021-22 second quarter budget adjustments
  • Approved a resolution to demolish the house at 1012 W. Didier, which was destroyed by a fire
  • Approved a mutual aid agreement with the Los Lunas Fire Department.
  • Recognized out-going Mayor Jerah Cordova, City Councilor Ronnie Torres and Municipal Judge Kathy Savilla.
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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.