Sierra Vista's garage - a former sewer treatment plant with no heat or air conditioning and undersized service bays - couldn't keep pace with growth.

Home to the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, the city's grown exponentially - at one point, 273% in one decade - over the last 40 years to 45,000 residents. Located 70 miles south of Tucson, the closest major city, and 15 miles north of the Mexican border, Sierra Vista is the commercial hub of Cochise County and parts of northern Mexico.

Five National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence-certified master mechanics and three service technicians maintain 372 vehicles and equipment ranging from motorcycles to fire engines. More than 10 years ago, the question was how to justify building an $8 million public works complex that included a 29,000-square-foot facility the fleet operation wasn't expected to fully utilize for 20 more years.

That's when it occurred to Public Works Director George Michael and the Sierra Vista City Council to capitalize on their remote location by building a regional governmental maintenance center, complete with fueling station, to service vehicles that require special expertise (transit buses, garbage trucks, fire trucks, bucket trucks, and ambulances).

In 2002, Arizona DOT became the center's first customer. Since then 28 other agencies, including seven fire districts, the Arizona Department of Corrections, and U.S. Border Patrol, have signed an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) for fuel and/or maintenance. In all, the center cares for 600 vehicles in addition to Sierra Vista's.

"The net earnings provide additional revenue to the city's general fund," says Public Works Operations Manager Richard Cayer. Fleet Supervisor Randy Manning schedules repairs based on the availability of mechanics and a vehicle's functional priority.

A member of the Pima Association of Governments' Clean Cities coalition, Sierra Vista is expanding the center to provide biodiesel and E85 as well as gasoline and diesel by March 2011. Customers will receive an access card to fill up 24/7 at Dresser Wayne Reliance dispensers, which will automatically transit transaction data via fuelserve.net, a Web-based system offered by Multiforce Systems Corp.

American Public Works Association 2010 Congress
"Don't Privatize - Publicize!"
Richard Cayer, MPA, PE
Public Works Operations Manager
City of Sierra Vista, Ariz.
Mon., Aug. 16, 2010
3 ­- 3:50 p.m.