Lightfoot proposes merger of technology, fleet management departments to save about $1 million

The merger of the Innovation and Technology and Fleet and Facility departments would go into effect in 2020 if the City Council approves, the mayor’s office said Wednesday.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Sun-Times file photo

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced plans on Wednesday to merge the city’s Innovation and Technology and Fleet and Facility departments, a move she says could save the city about $1 million.

The merger, which would go into effect in 2020 if the City Council approves, was announced Wednesday in a news release from the mayor’s office. In it, Lightfoot said the merger could address the city’s “significant financial challenges in 2020 and beyond.”

On Oct. 23, Lightfoot will deliver her 2020 budget address to a Chicago City Council that’s already pushing back. She’ll reveal what taxes she plans to raise and services she plans to cut to erase an $838 million shortfall.

“With these reforms, we will ensure a more efficient, 21st-century data and technology model to put Chicago at the forefront for driving excellence and innovation across all operations, and for the residents we serve,” Lightfoot said.

The merger would retain all of the Department of Innovation and Technology’s critical data science, information systems and data security functions, including the Open Data portal, 311 and other tools or services offering transparency to residents and businesses.

Additionally, the city’s top technology positions — chief data officer and chief information officer — will both be relocated to the mayor’s office. The mayor’s office said this will boost new data initiatives and efficiencies. All other occupied positions will be retained or transitioned into the new department.

“The City of Chicago is committed to ensuring that our technology systems preserve all critical data functions to support greater efficiency by departments and better service for residents and businesses who rely upon city information and applications,” said Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), who chairs the Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development.

David Reynolds, commissioner of the Fleet and Facility Management Department, which is known around City Hall as “2FM,” said the move will help all other departments perform neighborhood services more promptly and equitably.

“In merging with the talented staff of Department of Innovation and Technology, I am confident we will have the capacity and the data expertise to continue providing top-notch service for all Chicagoans,” Reynolds said.

The announcement came about a month after an audit from Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s office found that 2FM didn’t meet industry standard of at least 95% “fleet availability.”

The inspector general could not make a thorough assessment due to inaccurate data. But the results he did produce showed that the Chicago Police Department’s 3,854 vehicles are not maintained as well as they should be, and the hard-driven vehicles aren’t replaced as often as they should be.

The audit found that delays in 2FM requesting vehicles for maintenance and CPD delivering those vehicles both exacerbated the low rates of preventative maintenance. It also found that 2FM receives about half of the funds needed to keep up with maintenance and replacement.

Earlier this year, the city announced more than $5.9 million in energy and operational savings at 2FM; an end to short-term borrowing, which could save $22 million in the fiscal year 2020; and sweeping reforms to the worker’s compensation program to drive down claim costs and generate even more annual savings, according to the mayor’s office.

In April 2018, former Mayor Rahm Emanuel broke ground on a project to relocate 2FM’s fleet maintenance facility from the North Branch Industrial Corridor to a vacant 12.5-acre site at 210 W. 69th St. that once housed Kennedy-King College in Englewood.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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