Ocean City To Try Outsourcing Vehicle Washes

OCEAN CITY – The City Council entered into a one-year trial run of a vehicle washing services contract this week, in hopes of cleaning up the municipal fleet and alleviating the stress on the town’s current, fledgling bus washer.

Oasis Car Wash, located on 72nd Street and Coastal Highway, presented the City Council with a proposal at Tuesday’s work session offering year-round car washes for the town’s municipal fleet for an annual price of  $60,000.

Ocean City Public Works Director Hal Adkins made a favorable recommendation of the proposal to the City Council, explaining the need for a new washing service.

According to Adkins, the town constructed a “bus wash” at the 65th Street Public Works Building nearly 10 years ago through the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) and through federal and state funding. The initial purpose of the machinery was to clean the transit fleet. Over the years, however, it has become a washing location for most of the town’s municipal vehicles. The years of wear and tear have degraded the machine significantly.

“We continue to limp along with trying to keep it operational, but the machinery has become obsolete and replacement parts are near impossible to even get anymore,” Adkins said. “We have been manually running it and keeping our fingers crossed that it’ll keep working.”

Councilman Jay Hancock said the current system was having difficulty when he retired from the police force in 2003.

“This bus washing system was having trouble five years ago when I left,” said Hancock.

Although Public Works has been working with the MTA for the past two years in an effort to secure funding for new machinery, the city has not been awarded the $225,000 in grant money. Furthermore, when and if the grant money is received, the machine will be used solely for washing the transit fleet.

“If we’re not going to maintain them with the old bucket and rag, then they’re not going to get maintained at all,” Adkins said of the remaining vehicles.

To solve the problem, Oasis President Neil Hitchcock proposed that the vehicles be washed at Oasis for an annual cost of $60,000. The service would give the town access to the car wash 24-hous a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, with each vehicle being independently tracked. Radio Frequency Identification Devices, similar to the EasyPass, would be placed in each vehicle and would monitor the number of washes allowable per month per vehicle.

According to Hitchcock, “All washes will have the undercarriage component, triple bug wash, double soap, high pressure rinse, a clear coat sealant, spot free rinse, and drive thru dryer. Approximately every other wash will also have a Rainx type Full Body Protectant and additional high pressure rinse.”

Adkins explained that the costs would be covered through “fleet maintenance accounts,” and would vary per division from a low of $214 to $16,302.

“It’s not across the board that every vehicle will be maintained at the same level,” said Adkins.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas questioned whether the city should invest $225,000 to replace the current washer, which would have about a 10-year life span, rather than spend $60,000 every year for the next decade, which would total $600,000.

“Personally I think it would be premature to go in that direction,” said Adkins, noting that the city could still receive the grant money. He added that entering in a one-year contract would allow the city to consider other options later on if grant money is received.

“We’re not looking at oranges to oranges here, we’re looking at oranges to apples,” said Council President Joe Mitrecic, pointing out that the Oasis car washes would include chemicals, water recycling, and undercarriage cleaning that would extend the vehicles life.

Councilman Jim Hall favored going with Oasis for one year and then re-evaluating.

“I think this is not a bad idea, I think we should try this for a year,” said Hall.

Mitrecic addressed vehicles that are considered “take-home vehicles,” pointing out that employees who are awarded the luxury of taking a town vehicle home with them should be charged with washing the vehicles themselves.

“I’m not very much in favor of the take home vehicles being taken through the car wash,” he said.

The council voted unanimously for a one-year trial run of the vehicle washing services contract.