COLUMBIA CITY — Two separate items pertaining to vehicles were on the agenda for the Columbia City Common Council meeting last week.

The council spoke with a representative from Enterprise to discuss a potential contract on the city’s vehicles, and a businessman about rezoning the OmniSource property for use as a vehicle scrapyard.

Enterprise presents a program that could allow the city to save, and even earn money, while cutting down on maintenance costs for its vehicles.

Michael Fitzpatrick, a representative with Enterprise, spoke with the council about capitalizing on the program, which would help the city replace its 26 light-duty vehicles every five years, rather than every 13 years as it currently does.

The average age of the city’s 26 vehicles is 8.9 years. Having newer vehicles makes a large difference on maintenance costs — by about 73 percent, according to an analysis by Enterprise. Additionally, newer vehicles are typically more fuel efficient. It total, Enterprise estimates the city will save $316,581 in 10 years.

The city would be able to update its fleet of vehicles more often through Enterprise and its government discount. A vehicle that would cost $40,000 to a consumer may actually cost $25,000 to the city due to government contracts. Rather than the city purchasing the vehicles and keeping them for an extended period of time, it could lease the vehicles from Enterprise, which, after five years, would take the car back and sell it at resale value — likely more than what was paid in the first place due to the discount.

“We get to drive off the difference in the resale value and the brand new price and that equity comes to the city,” Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel said.

Daniel and Clerk-Treasurer Rosie Coyle were skeptical at first, but are more comfortable with the program after several meetings and input from other Indiana agencies who use the same program.

“In speaking with colleagues, they are very pleased with it,” Daniel said.

Other Indiana public entities using the program include Carmel, Kokomo, Lebanon, Madison, Purdue University, Elkhart County, Hendricks County, Marshal County and Montgomery County.

Last year, Kokomo’s Board of Public Works signed a five-year leas with Enterprise Lease Management Systems that replaced up to 30 of the city’s most used, non-public safety vehicles. For Kokomo, there was an estimated savings of $300,000-$510,845.

“Enterprise did a good job of making sure we have all the information we need. Rosie and I have had countless meetings at this point, we wanted to make sure we have a strong understanding of the program,” Daniel said.

The program is not a long-term contract, so if the city does choose to go into the agreement with Enterprise it can be canceled at any time.

Additionally, Enterprise takes into account normal wear and tear of the vehicles, so the city won’t have to pay additional money for normal use of their vehicles.

Another benefit Daniel mentioned was the ability to budget a set amount for vehicles each year, rather than having unexpected issues and purchases. The new vehicles are under warranty, so repair costs are unlikely. This also will help free up the city mechanic to work on other projects.

Rather than spending, for example, $30,000 to buy one vehicle next year, the city could budget the same amount of money and receive multiple new vehicles.

Fitzpatrick said the program works well because government vehicles often are not high mileage and have the low purchase price.

“We might come back and sell it at a profit — that comes back to the city and to the department head’s budgets,” Fitzpatrick said.

The original proposal of 26 vehicles includes department head vehicles and other miscellaneous vehicles used at the city. Police vehicles are not included in the proposal.

“I like the flexibility that comes with it,” Daniel said. “And it gives the council some security — it’s a set cost and you know exactly what it will be.”

Daniel was looking for an indication from the council that it favored the program. Ultimately, the Columbia City Board of Works would enter into the agreement with the city.

“I want to make sure you’re comfortable before we move forward with it,” Daniel said.

Councilwoman Nicole Penrod made a motion to move forward with the program and Councilman Dan Weigold seconded the motion, but Councilwoman Jennifer Romano and Council President Walt Crowder indicated they wanted more time to review the program.

“We need to digest all of this. There’s a lot here,” Crowder said. “It sounds like a great program, but we’re in new territory we haven’t been in before.”

Rezoning request

Joint Planning and Building Director Nathan Bilger approached the council regarding a rezoning ordinance for the property at 875 E. Business 30.

The property is currently zoned I-1 light industrial, and potential future owners of the property are asking that the property be zoned I-2 heavy industrial.

The property was originally Killian & Sons Auto Parts, from 1928-2012 before being bought by OmniSource in 2012. That facility was closed to the public in 2015.

Stan Karnik, owner of Legal Chop Shop, which has been in business since 1999, is running out of space at his location in Fort Wayne, and is looking to expand in Columbia City with a salvage yard.

Karnik would like to store inoperable vehicles on the location, then use those vehicles to salvage parts for customers. This type of business is a better fit for I-2 zoning, Bilger said.

Though I-2 zoning opens the door for many other uses, such as steel fabrication and foundries, the proposed zoning change comes with several stipulations, including specific use for the salvage yard.

Karnik also agreed to expand the property’s privacy fence, maintain a buffer from the property line, not allow car crushers and use security lighting only.

If approved, the new zoning would not go into effect until those commitments are reported.

In 2002, Killian’s requested a rezoning of the property to I-2, which was not approved because “rezoning would have opened up too many uses not compatible with that location,” Bilger said.

One neighboring property owner requested the extended privacy fence, but other than that, no one has come forward against the zoning change.

“I spoke with a resident on the other side of Towerview Drive. He said if they can’t see it, hear it or smell it, they have no problem with it,” Mayor Daniel said. “It can’t be any worse than what’s been there in the past.”

If the rezoning is approved and Karnik’s deal with OmniSource works out, he plans to bring non-working vehicles onto the site. Upon arrival, the vehicles are stripped of all harmful fluids, such as oil, fuel, and transmission and radiator fluids. The fluids are either put into containers for removal or used on his own equipment.

The vehicles would then be stored on location for access to the parts, which are listed online and/or purchased through local body shops and dealerships.

If Karnik needs to remove parts, the vehicle is brought into the building, the parts are removed, and the vehicle is put back in the field. Parts are only removed inside the building.

When the vehicles are no longer useful to Karnik, he plans to sell the scraps to OmniSource.

“It’s a very clean operation,” Karnik said. “We have professional disassemblers to take the cars apart and we use mostly handheld tools.”

At his Fort Wayne location, Karnik participates in a voluntary program through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management — one of only six places in the state to receive the highest level of recognition, he said.

The new business could bring five jobs to the area. Karnik said Columbia City is a prime location due to having customers in Warsaw, South Bend and others in the area. Most of the parts are wholesaled to body shops and car dealerships rather than retail.

After much discussion at its previous meeting, the Columbia City Plan Commission sent a favorable, 8-0 recommendation.

At last week’s Columbia City Common Council meeting, the council also approved the rezoning unanimously on first reading.

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