Mayor Brandon Rein started the Monday evening city commission meeting by recognizing John Barbur of his 30 years on the Abilene Tree Board.
After the recognition, local lawyer Hank Royer stepped up to the podium to speak about the ongoing fleet management debate and the success of the Convention & Visitors Bureau’s work.
“28 years I was on your charter development council, president for five or six years,” Royer said. “One of the things we learned is you got to take care of your local businesses.”
Royer went on to explain how local businesses take care of local groups and charities through donations. Once sharing his point-of-view on the fleet management, Royer went on to thanking and surprising CVB director Julie Roller-Weeks with a $25,000 donation for her “dynamo” work. Royer also pointed out that the CVB budget took a hit with the pandemic and Covid-19.
“I am speechless,” Roller-Weeks told the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle. “Hank is correct, the CVB’s Transient Guest Tax collections have decreased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Cutting staff, taking on new tasks, doing more with less, it has been very difficult. But, I’m so proud of the way we weathered this storm, I’m proud of the campaigns and initiatives we spearheaded that made a difference in our community. Abilene is a great community and I’m so excited about the future. Thank you to Hank and the Jeffcoat Memorial Foundation for this gift. I promise we will put it to good work.”
With recognition and public comments completed, the commission moved on to the final agenda topic, the ongoing Enterprise Fleet Management agreement debate. Present at the meeting were Holm Automotive Dealer Principal Tim Holm and over phone call Enterprise Fleet Consultant Ken Olsen. In the previous study sessions and discussions, the city commission asked to see more comparables from Enterprise and a proposal from Holm.
Holm repeated his previous statements about the responsibility of the city keeping business local and his argument heard agreement from Royer and Community Foundation of Dickinson County Executive Director Elizabeth Weese.
The commission did question both Holm and Olsen about the current car market with getting the vehicles needed to fulfill the city’s needs. Holm said the reason he did not bring a proposal towards the board was due to the lack of cars he would be able to supply them.
After hearing from both Olsen and Holms, the commission moved on to their discussion. Commissioner Trevor Witt asked what the impact would be if the commission tabled the discussion or declined the offer.
“Commissioner Witt, if we postpone it, which you are fully in the right to postpone and table, it just pushes back when we get vehicles,” City Manager Ron Marsh said. “Changes how we are looking to get the vehicles, right now we are scheduled to, I believe, six vehicles. It will just push it back.”
“We don’t have to necessarily make a decision tonight,” Marsh said. “I think it would be in the best interest of the city if we were going one way or the other tonight.”
Commissioner Chris Ostermann brought up that it has been policy of the city to keep business local.
“I always thought it was the policy of the city to go local even if it may be more of an investment,” Ostermann said. “Because we always aired on the side of local brick and mortar businesses.”
“Absolutely Mrs. Ostermann and if we thought for one second that this would hurt local business in the long term we wouldn’t have brought it to the commission table,” Marsh said. “We didn’t realize Holm or any other businesses in town would have done fleet management. If that was the case, we would have reached out to them. Ultimately, yes we would want to go local and we would prefer to stay local.”
Marsh reminded the commission that the city will work whatever plan they select and Vice Mayor Dee Marshall asked for clarification if the city asked or if Enterprise pitched the agreement. Finance Director Marcus Rothchild confirmed that Enterprise reached out to the city first.
Witt made a motion to approve the agreement, which Rein seconded due to the lack of proposal seen from Holm or another local business. The commission voted with 2 YES (Brandon Rein and Trevor Witt) and 3 NOs (Dee Marshall, Chris Ostermann, Tim Shafer). The motion failed and the city will need to continue to look for fleet management options outside of the Enterprise proposal.
Marsh closed off the meeting by give his City Manager reports, which included an update on Police Department construction, Northwest 14th street construction project, construction on Well #23 and reminders of the city Christmas party on Dec. 11 and no meeting on Nov. 29.