Taking away the keys: Marco, other agencies reduce employee take-home cars

Jim Riviere, 68, went from being chairman of the Marco Island Planning Board to leading the city as the new interim city manager.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

Jim Riviere, 68, went from being chairman of the Marco Island Planning Board to leading the city as the new interim city manager.

— Southwest Florida cities and counties are looking at whether government take-home vehicles are a necessary employee perk as they seek to drive down costs.

Marco Island recently identified several employees who were given city-owned and maintained cars, saving them money on commuting, but adding no value or service to the taxpayers or city.

Marco’s interim City Manager Jim Riviere said while there was a cost-savings, it wasn’t calculated in advance of the decision.

“It wasn’t really a budget-driven decision,” Riviere said. “It was a matter of prudence.”

Bonita Springs has been practicing such prudence for years, City Clerk Dianne Lynn said. City vehicles don’t go home with employees in Bonita, Lynn said.

The cost savings realized by Marco’s policy change couldn’t be provided, Riviere said, because take-home vehicle expenses weren’t calculated and tracked in the past.

A part-time Marco Island Police Department employee, Ray McChesney, will hold the new position of fleet manager in the city, Riviere said.

The position won’t require more than a couple of hours of work each week, Riviere said.

Marco Island Taxpayers Association President Fay Biles had been urging city officials to review their policy with city vehicles for years. Biles said she witnessed Marco Island vehicles being driven as far away as Fort Myers and Miami in the past.

Fay Biles

Fay Biles

“I’m very satisfied that the city manager has asked for these cars to be returned,” Biles said.

Most of the vehicles returned were used by employees in the public works department who didn’t respond to city business after-hours, Riviere said.

“I thought it was just fire and police that had cars. I learned there are many more,” Biles said.

“This is just not money that should be spent,” she added.

The change in Marco Island’s policy was announced by Riviere in early June, effective immediately.

While the names of those employees who gave up their cars weren’t released by Riviere, odds are they’re suffering a significant financial loss. Many Marco employees live in the Naples area and a full-time employee could spend about $200 per month in fuel alone for some of the longer commutes on and off the island.

The change in policy allows city employees to have take-home vehicles only if they are people who may be asked to make immediate responses on behalf of the city off-hours, Riviere said.

That policy now mirrors the policies of Naples, as well as Collier and Lee counties.

Trimming such privileges may have dramatic effects on the budget, according to data provided by these agencies.

Collier County government spends about $75,000 annually providing more than 40 vehicles for employees’ take-home use, spokesman John Torre said.

This doesn’t include Sheriff’s Office or school district vehicles. Some of these are for EMS and fire use, but the majority aren’t.

Building inspectors, 15 of whom work out of their homes, are the top users of Collier County government cars, accounting for at least a third of the annual expense.

County government policy restricts the cars and trucks from personal use, unless stopping for food or refreshment during working hours.

Lee County government’s policies are similar, said Marilyn Rawlings of fleet management. Only on-call employees may use them, Rawlings said.

Bill Moss

Bill Moss

There are seven permanent take-home vehicles in the city of Naples and all are for the police and fire departments, City Manager Bill Moss said.

There are six additional autos that are taken home by employees on a rotating basis for whoever is on-call at the time, Moss said, giving an example of utility workers who might get called in to work.

Still, some perks remain for top government employees in Naples and Marco Island. Directors often receive monthly car allowances ranging from $300 to $500. Ten employees in Naples receive such allowances costing the city nearly $50,000 annually.

Riviere said he doesn’t anticipate cutting directors’ car compensation because he doesn’t think it’s appropriate to rework employee contracts, particularly because many of them negotiated those contracts after a competition for the job.

Moss receives a $400 per month car allowance from the city of Naples. Riviere, a Marco resident, earns $500 monthly for a car allowance.

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Comments » 11

dc5799 writes:

in response to islandeye1#236971:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I have to disagree.I think she is just the most wonderful lady on the Island. She know's the answer to every question before she ask's it. Just ask Rony.
Keep up the good work Fay. Between you and Mario we will be kept up to date. Thank's to you both.

ajm3s writes:

in response to dc5799:

I have to disagree.I think she is just the most wonderful lady on the Island. She know's the answer to every question before she ask's it. Just ask Rony.
Keep up the good work Fay. Between you and Mario we will be kept up to date. Thank's to you both.

Kudos to citizens that care and ask the questions that sometimes the prior city management just did not care to ask or did not want to ask, since the answers were not ready for public viewing (in the city's view).

It was so apparent it was ludicrous at times.

naples_rocket writes:

"She is without a doubt the most disliked person on Marco Island."

Really? I cannot think of any other person on this island whom I like more than her.

happy6 writes:

get back to the article...moss set all this crap up re. cars when he was here...apparently the naples council is a little tighter than our marco council...was or is...if they live in naples and have to drive to work...tough...how many of the readers here had to "drive" to work at their own expense...come on...and the ionspectors could ride together on their inspections and eliminate two more vehicles....share the ride!
and why does the new city mgr need 500/month...the island ain't that big...that's appx 150 gallons/month (i know insurance is extra) and at 15 mpg that's alot of driving around the island.

sailingalong writes:

Fay Biles performs a wonderful watchdog service for the citizens of Marco. She is highly regarded, liked, and respected. The most disliked title is a toss up between Ray B and Ed I.

cromagnon writes:

Was this employee PERK replaced with the Henderson Creek park and ride facility? Notice the newly paved parking lot with private vehicles during the day and city vehicles during the evening. At 50 cents a mile, this benefit is around $2,400/year/vehicle.

Fossil writes:

Hopefully when these contracts come up for review, the vehicle allowance will be negotiated out of them. Police, Fire and Senior Staff should be required to live on Marco Island. As a former recruiter I would have no problem finding replacments for those who claim it is too expensive. The country is full of unemployed well qualified Police and Fire applicants that would love to live on Marco Island. Many munincipalities have this requirement. Just make it a job requirement. Having takehome marked police vehicles in our neighborhoods will be an additional benefit to the community.

jwputnam writes:

in response to islandeye1#236971:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I would like some clarification. Can you give me an example? Just what offends you specifically? Could you possibly be an ex-employee of our fair city?

August8 writes:

Most of the time your comments have merit, this time you sound like a "Fossall".
Where ever you recruited?? It certainly was not in the police and fire public service. Perhaps all their take home vehicles can't be justified, but this program is in keeping with practices nation wide. For sure, you could not recruit "ONE" police or fire officer that resides on Marco Island.
Inspite of your opinion, and lady Biles, You have a great Police Chief and a very qualified group of police officers, you should be so lucky.Now, I believe in their case, only supervisors have the benifit of a City Vehicle, I think it should be extended to the working officer's, if not, remove them from all supervisor's, the Chief and his Captain being the only exceptions. Now, you want to recruit the best, this is the benifit that will make that happen.
Quit being such a cheap knucklehead, think of someone other than yourself, and perhaps you and Ms Biles can go out and do a tango ???

Fossil writes:

August8 read my entry again. I never suggested limiting recruitment to Marco Island. I only suggested that city employed police be required to live on Marco Island. Don't tell me they can't afford it. Real Estate agents and banks are begging people to buy homes and owners have lowered rental rates to unprecedented levels in order to pay their mortgages. Fay Byles has done more for our community they 99 percent of us. Without Fay and MITA our City would be stealing us blind. MITA serves as our eyes and ears.

August8 writes:

Ok Fossil,

Times change, intiate a live in requirement for new hires, if conditions are really like you think, someday hopefully that will change, what then? There was a time when officer's could not even afford to eat on the Island, true !! Look at the big picture, be fair and frugal, you will get what you pay for.
The current distribution of police cars does not benifit the citizens or the city, officer's that do the work do not have the benifit and do not recieve the compensation rate of the supervisor's that do.. So, under current policy, take them away, I agree.
I admire any citizen that gets involved, like yourself, but not those that want to stand in the way of any progress and advicate returning to yesterday.

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