SPET by SPET: Fleet Maintenance Facility needs an upgrade

JACKSON, Wyo. — When the Town of Jackson’s Fleet Maintenance Facility was built in 1990, Jackson’s population was 102% smaller than it is today.

The town’s fleet was smaller, too, by about 160 vehicles.

Times have changed, says Town Administrator Larry Pardee. And to keep up is going to require some money.

Proposition number two on the 2019 SPET ballot: $18.5 million “for planning, designing, engineering, and constructing a Core Services Vehicle Maintenance Facility, to service and maintain critical response and general use vehicles of Teton County and the Town of Jackson.”

“It’s extremely expensive, I’m not going to candy-coat it,” Pardee admits. But he also says it’s essential.

“It’s not a matter of should we or shouldn’t we. We absolutely have to.”

Jackson’s fleet includes snowplows, street maintenance vehicles, law enforcement vehicles, water/sewer maintenance vehicles, emergency vehicles, and buses. Its maintenance facility on Snow King Ave. is supposed to be able to house everything needed to maintain all 358 vehicles, and even house the vehicles themselves for periods at a time when they’re under repair. The facility we have now, Pardee says, is not up to snuff. Vehicles are left broken down in the cold awaing available space inside. Mechanics are working out in the cold to try to expedite repairs. It’s a constant shuffle of vehicles, equipment, and people.

“It costs us more time and money in the long run than if we had additional space and could get more done,” he says. “We increase those fleets, but we haven’t been able to figure out a strategy to build expanded fleet services for the future.”

The town tries to buy all its maintenance equipment in bulk. It saves time and money, Pardee says – but it also takes up space. The current facility forces vehicles that need servicing to compete for space with the tools required to fix them.

“It hampers on production.”

It’s also a public safety issue, Pardee says. If a snow plow needs work and can’t get it done right away, the streets are short a plow. More urgently, if emergency vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances are broken down, they cannot respond to emergencies. “That creates a huge safety problem on behalf of the community.”

By the numbers

  • Public Works Fleet maintains 358 vehicles today. In 1990, it maintained 218.
  • The number of START Buses increased by 101% between 2001 and 2019 — from 18 to 37.
  • When the maintenance facility opened in 1990, the Fleet operational budget was $104,072. Today, it is $2.3 million. That’s a 2,152% increase.
  • The current facility has 3 bays to service large equipment and buses and 4 regular-sized bays for light-duty vehicles including law enforcement, general use, and pickup trucks. The new facility will have 9 large vehicle service bays and 5 double spaced light-duty bays.

All of these vehicles and more are part of the town’s fleet and serviced in the fleet maintenance facility. Photos: Buckrail // Nick Sulzer

Why SPET?

The simple answer, Pardee says, is that it’s one of the town’s only options. The Town of Jackson is sponsoring the project, which means it is putting up its own money from the general fund to help pay for it. But it needs help, and SPET is a tool to provide that assistance.

“Time is money,” Pardee says. The cost gets “exponentially larger” the longer we wait.

Indeed, a similar project failed on the SPET ballot in 2017 for $3 million less. In just two years, construction costs have skyrocketed and needs have increased.

Pardee sees the project as a long-term investment. “We’re not just meeting today’s challenges, but we’re looking forward to the next 50-75 years,” he says.

“I don’t think any of us could have anticipated this level of growth in our core fleet maintenance services for town and county government,” Pardee says. “We did a great job, it’s served us, but it’s beginning to fall desperately behind.”

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