If a friendly police officer calls for a tow to help you after an accident, beware — that phone call may soon cost you a lot more.
The City Council plans to hold a public hearing in three weeks on whether to give the city a cut in all tows if a city official calls for the tow. The proposal would also let the tow companies charge more.
The towing fee would rise from $90 to $150, of which the city would get $40 if a worker made the call.
The impound fee would also rise, and the city would get a $10-a-day cut.
The council had planned for tow fees in its 2013 budget, counting on $50,000 in revenue. That’s 1,250 tows over the course of the next eight months.
The council also counted on $30,000 in impound fees.
But city officials never set the fees. City attorneys have been negotiating a new contract with the towing companies in the city, and brought their first proposal to the council at Monday’s committees meeting.
Council members weren’t enthusiastic about the fees.
Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo noted that drivers would pay $40 less if they called for a tow — punishing them if they were unable to call.
“I’m pretty uncomfortable with the idea of getting into an accident and being physically harmed and having to call a towing company to avoid the fee,” she said.
She also questioned why the city would negotiate to raise the amount of money the towing companies collect from $90 to $110. That, she said, didn’t seem fair to residents who would have to pay the higher fee as well as the additional $40 to the city.
Deputy Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said $110 per tow was the “industry standard” for the area. He also said the tow companies would not collect the city’s $40 unless they also got a raise.
“We’re asking them to do substantially more work,” he said.
Councilman Vince Riggi criticized that.
“It is advantageous to a towing company to get a town’s work,” he said. “If I’m a towing company, I’m going to get a lot more work if I don’t just wait for customers to call me, I get the city’s calls too. It’s certainly a plus for the towing company to be on the city’s call list.”
Councilman Carl Erikson and Councilwoman Marion Porterfield told Falotico to go back to the drawing board. They told him to send out a request for bids to tow cars for the city.
“It would give a little more competition, and maybe we would get a better price,” Porterfield said.
In other business, the council decided to press ahead with the proposed amendments to the rental inspection law, rather than making the changes proposed by some landlords.
The inspection checklist is now the publicly available, which fulfills the council’s last objection on the issue.
They also learned that the tenants’ names, listed on the inspection certificates, are not available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act.
That relieved their concerns that a victim of domestic abuse could be found by an abuser through FOIA.
City workers also said they wanted the names of every tenant, including children, so that they could be sure of finding every resident during a fire.
Porterfield proposed a compromise in which only the children’s names and genders were listed, but Building Inspector Eric Shilling said that would lead to confusion if a child had friends over when a fire broke out.
“It’s very important that it’s not just a 16-year-old we’re looking for, it’s Bill,” he said.
Perazzo said she was ready to approve the measure.
“I think there’s a lot of things we can look at, but this sets a benchmark,” she said.
Erikson added, “What we have here is better than what we have on the books currently. We’re making progress. We’re moving in the right direction.”
The council will vote next Monday.