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The city of Little Rock will pay to fly in an out-of-town consultant to discuss a report that he wrote at the request of the police union and that criticizes the city's Fleet Services Department, City Manager Bruce Moore said Tuesday.

The Fraternal Order of Police, a private organization made up of Little Rock Police Department employees, paid Ohio-based accountant Wade Steen $18,000 to review finances and practices of the Fleet Services Department.

Steen's findings were released to local media outlets in August and presented to city officials earlier this month.

Steen said the Fleet Services Department runs inefficiently, and he made recommendations for improvement. The police union used the report to argue that the city could be saving money, which could be used for raises. Moore said in August that there is no money available for city employee raises this year.

"I think it's going to be beneficial to bring the gentleman back, have him sit down with Fleet and Sara" Lenehan, the Finance Department director, Moore told the city Board of Directors during a budget meeting Tuesday. "And not to refute or rebut the report, but to really look at it and tell us what we can do better.

"I've said multiple times that I want outside eyes to come into the organization and look at what we're doing and how we can do it better. I've never resisted that. I think it can be beneficial."

in light of Steen's report, City Director at-large Joan Adcock asked Moore to look into whether it would be cheaper to outsource maintenance work on city vehicles instead of operating a $14.1 million Fleet Services Department.

Steen wrote in his report that having a fully staffed parts department is inefficient and that the city could save money by contracting out that task. He didn't say how much money the city could save.

The report also said Fleet Services needs to do a better job of tracking the efficiency of its technicians and should come up with a comprehensive vehicle replacement plan. A large part of the city's fleet is old and requires a lot of maintenance, according to the city program that tracks such matters.

Ward 6 City Director Doris Wright said Tuesday that she wants the city to come up with a replacement plan as soon as possible.

Since a 1 percent sales tax was approved by voters in 2011, the city has dedicated $1.6 million each year to replacing vehicles. That's not enough, but it's a start, Fleet Services Department Director Wendell Jones said.

The greater number of the 135 new vehicles the city has purchased since then have been for the Police Department. But police officers have been sounding off in recent months on the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police's Facebook page about the age of the vehicles they drive, complaining that they are unsafe.

"Police deserve to feel safe in their work space," union President Jarred McCauley told two board members in a presentation Sept. 3. "I'm not trying to be overly dramatic, but if you're driving in one of these deathtraps, you'll know what I mean. I don't want one of my members to have to die" before the city comes up with a plan to replace vehicles.

When deciding which vehicles from which departments are replaced as money becomes available, public safety departments are the primary concern, Moore told the board.

"We are committed to try to get these older cars out of our system a lot faster than we have been," Moore said. "It's not going to happen overnight, but I think, clearly, that developing a plan and being aggressive about it [is a good idea.] And if you look at what we've done, compared to overall, I think we really have tried to address those public safety needs."

Moore and Jones told the board they were still going through Steen's audit and would make a presentation to the board regarding its findings and their response to it once they've met with Steen.

Metro on 09/23/2015

Print Headline: LR to fly in adviser who criticized fleet

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