The City of Tampa spends millions of dollars each year maintaining and replacing its fleet of more than 2,500 vehicles.
But the I-Team has learned hundreds of cars and trucks were hardly driven, and we went to City Hall to find out why.
The fleet keeps thousands of city employees moving, from police and fire units responding to emergencies, to hundreds of vehicles used for things like trash collection, water service and park maintenance.
But a recent city audit determined 27 percent of Tampa's motor vehicles weren't moving much at all....driven less than 4,000 miles in a year.
160 cars on the list were less than three years old. 99 vehicles didn't move a single mile in a year.
Former Tampa City Council candidate and local business owner Joe Redner says that's unacceptable.
“Seems like a colossal waste of money,” said Redner, who said private business would not allow so many assets to be underused. “You utilize what you have to the benefit or your business and save money.”
“We wanted to really get a handle on this before it got really out of hand,” said Ocea Lattimore, Director of Tampa’s Department of Logistics and Asset Management, which oversees Tampa's vehicle fleet. “Out of the 600, there were approximately 180 of those that we went through and said ok, these are legitimately underutilized.”
63 of vehicles that had no miles were brand new vehicles, like Ford Police Interceptors. Officials say they didn’t have any miles because they have to undergo a substantial process to be put into the city’s fleet.
“We go through the striping, we got through putting the lights in, the caging, all of that is done by a different vendor, so we're pretty much at their mercy,” she said.
Lattimore says that often takes months.
Other vehicles with few miles were used by supervisors overseeing construction projects.
“Once they get to the job site, they sit idle. so in a routine day, they may amass 15 or 20 miles,” she said.
Other old police cars that didn't move all year were "scarecrow" vehicles the city uses to slow down speeders and deter crime. But many vehicles were simply unneeded, or sat around for months as spares.
“Those vehicles raised a flag for us and we went through a vetting process to assess whether the departments needed to have those vehicles,” Lattimore said.
15 cars and trucks were transferred to other departments. 104 were sold at auction. The city is still evaluating whether or not to keep 33 vehicles.
Critics say that's a good start.
“Our taxes should be used for better things than cars that just sit somewhere and don't get any miles on them,” said Redner.
Lattimore says new city budget controls insure new vehicles purchased face a higher level of scrutiny, and likely won't be sitting around during the next audit.
“We have a responsibility to the citizens to make sure that their taxpayers' dollars are being utilized properly,” Lattimore said.
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