Schenectady County

Schenectady’s new body shop is earning its keep — and more

The city’s new body shop will finish its first year in the black, Commissioner of General Services C

The city’s new body shop will finish its first year in the black, Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen said.

The shop cost $148,450 to operate this year, mainly in salaries for the two workers. But it brought in $178,000, mainly by repairing county vehicles and city vehicles covered by insurance.

“We also, in addition to that, did work on several of our own vehicles, not for insurance but to extend their life,” Olsen said.

Eight trucks were sandblasted to remove rust before it ate holes in the steel. The trucks were then repainted, and Olsen believes regular rust-removal could double the life of the city’s expensive plows and trucks. That’s already had an impact on the budget: two trucks that cost more than $100,000, and needed to be replaced this year, were instead fixed in the body shop and are back on the road.

The city had budgeted to bring in $131,406 in body shop revenue this year. Even that would have more than covered the two workers’ salaries. But despite bringing in $178,000, the two workers have enough body work to take up only half of their shifts. So they are spending the rest of their time working as regular mechanics for city vehicles. That means the body shop is bringing in enough money to pay for two part-time city workers.

“It’s working,” Olsen said with some triumph. When he proposed the idea last year, some residents criticized him and predicted it would never be profitable. In response, the council agreed to a one-year trial and warned that if the shop couldn’t bring in enough revenue, it would be closed.

Councilman Tom Della Sala asked detailed questions about the shop during a recent budget committee session. He was satisfied to let the shop continue.

“We’ve more than paid for those two positions,” he said. “It’s nice to know that worked out the way we’d hoped it would work.”

The shop made enough of a profit that it could also roughly cover the workers’ benefits, although those aren’t included in the budget for the shop. The city budgets all benefits together rather than separating them out in each department.

There is one substantial change in the shop from last year: although the council approved the hiring of Michael McNulty as the body shop manager, and created that position in the 2011 budget, he was entered in payroll as a heavy equipment mechanic. He has not worked as a manager, according to Olsen and city payroll.

Both workers do the same work and are members of the same heavy equipment operators union, Olsen said.

The change reduces body shop salaries by $46. But Olsen added $15,000 in overtime — up from this year’s $3,000 — to cover their work as regular city employees during snowstorms.

Two mechanics are always on duty during storms to repair plows quickly so they can get back on the road, Olsen said.

“We always have a number of minor issues — plow edges need to be replaced, hydraulic lines will blow out, windshield wipers break,” he said.

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