WALKER — The City Council, meeting in a special session on March 19, unanimously adopted a resolution that authorizes Mayor Jimmy Watson to enter into a lease agreement with Enterprise Fleet Management to provide vehicles for city use over the next 10 years.

The lease agreement with Enterprise is estimated to save Walker about $133,556 over the next decade. At the same time, the estimated equity in the fleet is expected to save the city about $143,500 over the same time span resulting in a net cash savings of about $257,000, officials said.

George Neville, Enterprise Fleet Management director for long-term vehicle leasing in Louisiana, said the agreement with his firm will allow the city to acquire additional vehicles while avoiding a large capital budget outlay. Further, Neville said his company can replace aged vehicles with newer models that will increase fuel efficiency and reduce maintenance expenses. A replacement plan that gives the greatest value at the time of resale of vehicles will also result in a savings to the city, he said.

Walker currently has a fleet of 36 vehicles and Neville said that 16 of the vehicles will be replaced in the first year of the contract. An analysis of the current fleet completed by Enterprise shows that one vehicle is 14 years old and others are at least 10 years old or older. Eventually, new vehicles will be introduced into the city’s fleet on a regular basis, Neville said.

“About 36 percent of your fleet is more than 10 years old and therefore the resale of older vehicles in reduced. With the newer vehicles we will supply, you will be getting vehicles with up-to-date safety features. You will also get about a 25 percent reduction in fuel expense and a reduction in maintenance costs by outsourcing maintenance,” Neville said.

Neville said Walker will be joining about 30 other municipal and other governmental agencies in Louisiana with vehicle lease agreements with Enterprise Fleet Management.

At the same meeting the council also voted unanimously to allow Watson to enter into an agreement with Retail Strategies Group for three years at a cost of $40,000 a year. Retail Strategies Group is a national firm that recruits restaurants and other retail businesses to communities.

“Retail Strategies will be representing the City of Walker at major conferences and conventions and will be in touch with retail businesses that are looking for places to locate. They know who these companies are, what their needs are, and which ones might be a good fit for Walker. We just can’t make the contacts that they do. Retail Strategies has a huge database that includes businesses and their contacts that we know nothing about,” Walker Finance Director Mike Cotton said.

Watson said, in asking for passage of the resolution, that Walker loses sales tax dollars through “seepage,” money that is spent by local citizens in other communities because the services and restaurants they are looking for are located elsewhere.

Councilman Gary Griffin said that while there are no guarantees that Retail Strategies will produce new business, working the company was worth the expense. Griffin noted that the council can cancel the contract after the first year if the results are not satisfactory.

In another matter, the council discussed how it might financially assist the North Shore Technical Community College which is slated for construction just north of the Livingston Parish Literacy and Technology Center on the city’s western edge.

Chief of Staff Jamie Etheridge presented council members with maps and photos related to the proposed new community college which, he said, could eventually attract several thousand students a year. Etheridge said that the community college is seeking assistance in infrastructure projects that will cost approximately $336,000. These funds would go for a new driveway from Burgess Avenue to the campus, a concrete sidewalk connecting the campus to the Literary Center, a retention pond that will be excavated, select soils involved in construction, a fire line and domestic water supply, and a sanitary sewer pump.

Etheridge said junior college administrators are looking for help wherever they can get it. He said that the college is also seeking financial assistance from the Livingston Parish Council and through grants and other funding sources.

“We are all excited about getting a college here, and we want to help out if we can. Down the road, we will be able to help with some things such as the sidewalk and upgrading the water and sewer systems. I want you, the council, to be thinking of ways that we can help the junior college,” Watson said.