ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – When you think of funding for University of New Mexico Hospital, you probably think of emergency rooms, doctors and medical equipment. But your money also paid nearly a half million dollars for something you might not think about.

The hospital has a fleet of vehicles that shuttles patients and employees to and from UNM Hospital buildings. There are 13 shuttles, four buses, plus a small array for cars and service trucks. All of those vehicles need servicing.

“It’s extremely important for us to have reliable service,” said John Arnold, UNM Hospital spokesman.

UNM has a large garage on campus that services vehicles throughout campus.

“That includes everything from buses to vehicles to tractors to street sweeps to garbage trucks,” said Willie West, UNM’s Environmental Services and Physical Plant Department Manager. “We’re doing everything from a simple oil change all the way up to tires to brake repairs to engine rebuilds.”

But UNM’s four full-time technicians don’t service the hospital’s fleet. Instead, the hospital contracts with Leonard Tire and Auto Repair. It’s a private, for-profit company in Albuquerque.

It’s not cheap to maintain the fleet. KRQE News 13 poured over hundreds of invoices and receipts for Leonard Tire. For 2014 and 2015, the hospital paid $470,104.55 to the auto shop for repairs and maintenance.

Arnold said it’s money well spent.

“They provide a quick turnaround on the repairs and this is important because we don’t have any extra shuttle buses. So when a bus goes out of service for repair or service it’s critical, we get it back in service as quickly as possible,” he said.

But UNM said it’s capable of servicing the hospital’s vehicles.

The garage isn’t free. It charges the school’s different departments to fix their vehicles so that the garage can pay for itself.

The UNM garage was one of seven businesses that put in a bid to service the hospital’s fleet. In that proposal the UNM garage cited some 2009 numbers. It said the UNM automotive center serviced 723 vehicles at an annual maintenance cost of $841. Leonard Tire serviced 42 vehicles at an annual maintenance cost of $3,742.

Still, Leonard Tire won the latest request for proposal or RFP.

“Leonard’s offered the most competitive price and in the RFP scoring. Price was the key scoring factor,” said Arnold.

Quick turn-around was also key. According to the RFP’s, Leonard said it can get a car back in service in one hour or less. UNM said it could do it in four hours or less.

“I’m not saying (Leonard Tires does) a better job on the work. I’m saying they have more technicians and yes, can provide a faster turnaround,” Arnold said.

Leonard Tire has won the hospitals bid since 1996. The latest four year contract is up this summer. UNM’s garage plans to bid on it again to see if it can save taxpayers’ money.

“We would be happy to have their business,” West said.