Brookfield Village Hall (Javier Govea/Staff)

In a break with past practice, the village of Brookfield will lease much of its fleet of vehicles – public works, police and fire – to turn over vehicles more quickly and cut down on the cost of maintaining older ones.

Whether the arrangement will end up saving the village money over time is unclear. In the short term, at least, it appears that leasing the vehicles will cost slightly more than buying them outright, but leasing avoids the expensive maintenance of older vehicles in the future and gives the village a more predictable schedule and annual budget for replacing vehicles.

On Feb. 28, village trustees voted 5-0 to enter into a five-year lease agreement with Enterprise Fleet Management to immediately replace 12 vehicles, including eight pickup trucks and one car for the public works department, two police patrol vehicles and a fire department supervisor vehicle. 

“Based on the financial study done by [Brookfield finance Director] Doug Cooper, he determined that it would be about break even, but the benefit is 12 new vehicles as opposed to maybe five,” said Public Works Director Carl Muell. “I believe this is going to provide us with a newer fleet and less maintenance costs.”

According to Muell, the new public works vehicles will be like-for-like replacements. The vehicles to be replaced range overall in age from 8 to 23 years old, with the public works vehicles averaging nearly 17 years old.

The cost for the first year of the lease arrangement is a little more than $116,000, a figure that includes proceeds from the sale of five other “surplus” police vehicles ranging in age from eight to 17 years old. 

Over time, the village will lease most of its day-to-day vehicles, like police patrol cars, public works pickup trucks and other staff vehicles. In all, Brookfield has 77 vehicles in its fleet, but some of the bigger-ticket vehicles, like dump trucks, fire trucks and ambulances will still be purchased outright, since they typically have longer useful lives.

“We may lease dump trucks in the future, but we weren’t ready to take that plunge yet,” Muell said.

Muell said he wasn’t sure the exact number of vehicles the village might end up leasing but said that in future years the number of vehicles leased would be fewer than the 12 being replaced this year.

“In 2023 and 2024, the number of vehicles will be considerably smaller than the first one,” Muell said. “We’ll see how it goes this year, but I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from other communities using [leases].”

With the ongoing shortage of computer chips and vehicles, Muell said he’s not sure exactly when the village will take delivery of vehicles, adding it might not be before the end of 2022 for some of them.

A vehicle’s lease won’t begin until the village takes delivery, he said. If there is maintenance to be performed on any of the leased vehicles, that would be handled in house by one of the public works mechanics. The village is not purchasing any vehicle maintenance plans.

The village will also have the ability to terminate the lease agreement if officials find they are unsatisfied with it the arrangement. That out-clause appeared to be a key factor for some trustees, who initially were skeptical of leasing village vehicles instead of buying them outright.

According to the agreement, either party can terminate the lease agreement with or without cause with 30 days written notice. Such a decision would require the village to have a plan to immediately buy or replace the vehicles it had been leasing.