No Decision Yet on Vehicle Repair Outsourcing
City officials address questions of loyalty and economics.
The discussion over whether to outsource repairs of Darien-owned vehicles to Downers Grove turned personal at Monday’s Administrative and Finance Committee meeting.
“I can’t believe you guys are thinking about doing this,” city employee and assistant mechanic Tom Masek said. “How about a little loyalty to your worker? It’s pretty sad.”
Rather than filling the city mechanic position, left vacant after Matt Coulman retired this summer, officials are considering sending vehicles to Downers Grove’s repair shop.
Assistant City Administrator Scott Coren estimates the move would save the city about $26,000 during the first year.
Masek has been filling in as the city’s full-time mechanic since Coulman retired. Before that, Masek assisted Coulman with vehicle repairs and maintenance in addition to performing other duties for the Municipal Services department.
Several residents attended the meeting in support of promoting Masek permanently to full-time mechanic.
Retired Darien police officer Leonard Catalano offered a cost analysis to counter the one Coren prepared that put the cost of a full-time, in-house mechanic at $129,130.
He noted that the city’s analysis includes about $8,000 in overtime pay, a significant portion of which he said the city would have to pay out to someone regardless of whether the city filled the mechanic position. The overtime pay includes hours the employee would spend operating a snowplow and performing some other tasks outside the repair shop.
Catalano also challenged the $10-an-hour figure the city estimated it would cost to have an employee ferry vehicles to and from Downers Grove.
The city would have seasonal employees transport the vehicles, Coren said.
At times, however, other employees who are paid at a higher scale would have to drive specialized vehicles such as squad cars to Downers Grove, Catalano said, bumping the average hourly rate closer to $18.
City Administrator Bryon Vana said that he believed the residents in attendance who spoke against the proposal were only there because they were Masek’s friends.
“They think Tommy is entitled to this because he works here now,” he said. “I think whoever’s here talking should differentiate between those two issues because that really is an issue. I still have not heard anybody who seems to be against this issue say it’s not worth trying for a period of a year.”
“This has nothing to do with favoritism toward Tommy,” Catalano said.
City Treasurer Michael Coren said he believes it would be prudent to experiment with the new arrangement while there is already a vacant position.
"It's better to try it out when we wouldn’t have to cut back on someone’s hours (if the economy falters again)," he said.
The city’s working proposal with Downers Grove has Darien paying $87 an hour for the first 1,100 hours of work the neighboring town’s mechanics perform. Darien would pay $45 an hour after that.
Last year, Darien’s vehicles required 1,541 hours to repair.
Under the proposal with Downers Grove, those repairs would cost $115,545, plus about $30,000 for parts and transportation.
The total cost of employing a mid-level mechanic, according to Coren’s calculation, would be about $143,189 including benefits, uniforms and other additional expenses. Four years out, Coren projected that same employee would cost the city $175,346 a year.
In recent years, the shortest time spent on repairs was around 1,180 hours. Under that scenario with Downers Grove, labor, parts and transportation would cost Darien about $129,425. The city estimates repair figures over the next several years will be on the lower end because of the 12 new squad cars recently purchased for the Darien Police Department.
Masek’s job would revert back to what it was before Coulman retired, Coren said. He would continue to do small repairs and assist in emergency situations. In a recent year, Masek did about 1,000 hours worth of vehicle and equipment repairs, according to a city memo.
Darien would be able to terminate the agreement with Downers Grove at any time if the arrangement didn’t work out, Coren said.
Downers Grove officials have yet to approve an agreement on their end. The Village Council recently entered into similar arrangements with SEASPAR and School District 58, according to Downers Grove Patch.
Aldermen Tina Beilke and Ted Schauer voted to take the issue to City Council for further discussion without a recommendation from the committee. Alderman John Poteraske voted against bringing the issue before the council without the committee’s recommendation.
Vana said he will bring up the proposal at next Monday’s City Council meeting during his department head report. The council will potentially vote on the agreement at the Feb. 6 meeting.