KANKAKEE — The city of Kankakee is spending $611 a month to lease a car for the mayor, an expense that an alderman questioned last week.
Alderman Larry Osenga, R-3, raised the issue during a discussion on bills at Monday’s City Council meeting. He said he wondered whether the city needed to pay that much.
Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong drives a city-issued 2019 Ford Explorer. Her type of vehicle gets 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 miles per gallon on the highway, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Previous mayors also received city cars.
At the council meeting, Elizabeth Kubal, the city’s comptroller, said the leasing cost is being covered in part by a $12,000 settlement check that the city received last year after someone hit the mayor’s parked SUV through no fault of the mayor, Kubal said. That car was totaled. The settlement money will cover nearly 20 payments.
Last week, Wells-Armstrong referred questions about her city-issued 2019 Ford Explorer to Kubal.
In an interview, Kubal said the lease also includes a “fairly comprehensive” maintenance program that takes care of needed repairs. The lease agreement is for 60 months, but the city can opt out at any time, she said. The total amount over 60 months is $36,600.
In an email, Kubal noted the City Council voted 13-1 last year for the 2019 vehicle fleet leasing program with Enterprise, with Alderman Tyler Tall, D-5, as the lone dissenter.
Enterprise analyzed the city’s fleet and found the age of the city cars were negatively affecting fuel efficiency and causing above average maintenance spending for the city, Kubal said.
The mayor’s car was part of the first phase of the lease program.
“As with any new program, it is advantageous for all involved to work through the particulars on a small scale,” Kubal said.
The city is looking to add more cars to the lease program, Kubal said.
In an interview, Osenga said other department heads will likely also be driving leased cars. He said he doesn’t want them in top-of-the-line, $50,000 cars. Rather, he said, the city should look for medium-range vehicles.
He said city-issued cars are one of the privileges of rank. But he said everyone with whom he has spoken was surprised by the $611-a-month expense.
“We need to use common sense if we lease vehicles. This is taxpayer money,” he said.