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Half of the city's cars are eligible for the Enterprise program and will be phased in over the next five years

Lake Oswego will replace 24 city vehicles in the coming year and will contract out vehicle sales and maintenance for them to the tune of $325,227.

The City Council approved contracts with Enterprise Fleet Management last week, authorizing the nationwide program to replace two dozen sedans, vans, sports utility vehicles and small- to mid-sized trucks that are 10 to 20 years old.

Enterprise will also oversee oil changes and maintenance for the new vehicles.

There are currently 160 vehicles in the city’s fleet, but only about half are eligible for the Enterprise program. (Due to liability issues, the program does not include siren or pursuit vehicles used in public safety.) The remaining 60 eligible vehicles will likely be replaced during the next five years, according to a city staff report.

Much of the council’s discussion about the program centered around the types of vehicles included in the contracts. In several cases, the city will replace Toyota Priuses with Ford Escape SUVs, for example, and that didn’t sit well with some councilors.

“The proposed vehicle list converts the city fleet from one that included hybrids to one that is all SUVs,” Councilor Jon Gustafson said. “This council adopted a sustainability management plan, and this proposal seems to completely ignore that.”

Gustafson said his own research showed that the city could opt for more environmentally friendly vehicles without much of an increase in cost.

“It appears that pretty much the cost (difference) between this SUV and a hybrid is pretty negligible,” he said. “Looking at the Ford C-Max (a plug-in and hybrid hatchback-style vehicle), I came up with only an $800 difference over five years.”

City Support Services Supervisor Anthony Hooper said the replacement vehicles were chosen by department managers. Nine Ford Escapes were selected by the engineering and building departments, for example, whose employees often work in their cars.

“(One of the) reasons I heard they were picking Escapes versus going with a Prius or that type of vehicle is road clearance,” Hooper said. “You’ve got building officials and engineering department (staff) that are going to construction sites and going onto where there’s rough roads, so having that road clearance is a big deal for them.

“Building officials are also working in their vehicles, they’re not coming back into the office,” he added, “so having that extra space in their SUVs means quite a bit to them.”

Councilor Joe Buck said that while he was supportive of the Enterprise contract, he objected to the choice of SUVs.

“It sounds like the (engineering and building department) managers factored everything into their decision-making except for the sustainability action plan, which says we’re supposed to create a green fleet program,” he said. “We are making a better, more fiscally sound decision if we go with something more energy efficient, in my opinion.”

Councilor Jeff Gudman said he was reluctant for the council to weigh in on the decision-making on individual car purchases, emphasizing the importance of “the comfort and ability for our staff to operate and do their jobs.”

“Our building inspector has been driving a Prius for the past decade,” Buck countered. “We’re not in the back roads here.”

Gustafson agreed.

“I would push back against Councilor Gudman,” he said. “It doesn’t seem that they really did look at the triple bottom line. Unlike when (Hooper) was in front of us with the LED (light) proposal, that stool sat firmly on the ground. This one is going to tip over. This does not take into account the environmental or social benefits of this decision.”

Chris Turner, an account executive at Enterprise Fleet Management, told the council the program he had put together for the city is designed to lower the average age of the fleet, “which accomplishes some of the economic and environmental goals you’re looking for. Ultimately, running a 10- to 15-year-old fleet ... actually increases the miles per gallon of your fleet pretty effectively.”

After vigorous council discussion, City Manager Scott Lazenby said city staff would offer alternatives to the nine Ford Escape SUVs requested by the engineering and building departments, which will be reviewed during a future study session.

Under the program, Enterprise will oversee vehicle purchasing, licensing and registration. The company typically resells and replaces vehicles every five years, charging a $400 fee per sale. Remaining sale profits will go back to the city. Depending on their budgets, city departments may either purchase vehicles in full or finance them over a five-year period.

Because Enterprise can negotiate for lower bulk sale prices, and based on the expectation that vehicles will be sold in five years, vehicles will each carry some equity — just over $6,000 for a Ford Escape, for example, Hooper explained.

Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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