The city’s new body shop is no longer bringing in enough revenue to pay its bills, but the City Council appears to be content with keeping the facility.
The body shop cost $145,000 this year but brought in just $88,000.
Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen offered a passionate defense of the shop at city budget meetings, while Councilman Vince Riggi tried to argue it was a waste of money.
“I’d like to see that place being used for other things,” he said. “We were told it was going to be on a trial basis, to see how it goes. Well?”
Riggi got no support from the rest of the council, and the body shop remained in the proposed budget.
The shop is used to sandblast rust off old vehicles, add new metal and repaint. Olsen offered to cut costs in the shop for next year, but the shop would still cost more than it brings in.
Last year, in its first year of operation, the body shop had two full-time workers. For 2013, the shop would have just one worker, according to the proposed budget.
Olsen admitted two people work at the shop, but each splits their time between the shop and other duties.
“To be fair, I put one person in there,” he said of the budget.
That means the cost of the shop would fall from $145,000 to $98,000. But the shop is projected to bring in just $50,000 in revenue next year, so it still won’t cover its costs.
Riggi said he’d like to close the body shop since it isn’t bringing in enough revenue. But Olsen said the city was getting far more than just revenue. He said the body shop reconditioned several plows and trucks this year that had been badly damaged by rust, avoiding the need to replace them.
“I don’t understand why you don’t see that as a value,” Olsen said, arguing that the city is getting that work “nearly for free” because most of the body shop’s costs are covered by revenue.
The body shop is paid for reconditioning county vehicles, he said. Last year, the city also was paid by its insurance company to recondition city vehicles, but this year the city is paying for its own repairs after its insurance deductibles were increase because of an excessive number of accidents.
That’s why the revenue went down, Olsen said, but he said it was still worth it.
“If we’re able to do that reconditioning work on our own equipment and we’re able to cover our costs, that’s all gravy,” Olsen said.
Riggi said the work isn’t significantly adding to vehicle life.
“It’s not lasting like we were told it would last,” he said. “I’ve seen some vehicles where the rust is bleeding through. As I said it would. Once the metal is pitted, it’s been compromised. Once it’s compromised, it’s just about impossible to have it stop, and the rust will come back faster than it will on virgin metal. If any of us knew the way to stop rust, we’d be millionaires.”