Tow talk: Council votes 4-1 for advisory board
After a reported spike in towing complaints from visitors to downtown Charlottesville, the city's towing laws are about to come under scrutiny as City Council voted 4-1 to form a towing advisory board, which will have the power, among other things, to suggest limiting the amount a tow company can charge.
Currently, towing operators in Charlottesville can charge the state-allowed maximum of $125 during weekdays and $150 on weekends to transport a car– no matter how short the distance. Additional fees, however, can drive that price up.
For instance, Collier's Towing Company tacks on a $25 release fee for after-business-hours vehicle retrieval, and the owners of lots can add a parking fee to make up for lost revenue.
The advisory board formation comes in the wake of what assistant city manager David Ellis described to Council as an increase in complaints from residents and visitors alleging "unfair, dangerous or unprofessional towing practices."
Several councilors expressed doubts at the May 21 meeting about the need for such a board.
"Why isn't the first course of action talking to these vendors and trying to get an understanding as to what is going on from their perspective," asked Kathy Galvin. "Does it need better signage? Better posting?"
Several tow truck operators were in attendance at the meeting, and Collier's owner Glenda Jones accepted the Councilors' invitation to speak.
"I don't dispute the board," Jones told council. "What I do dispute is the people looking down on us as bad people... We're doing a job we're paid to do."
By state law, the advisory board would include two towing operators, two police officers, and one member of the general public (with an alternate citizen also appointed). Councilor Dave Norris pointed out that the proposed board's composition, as dictated by state law, leaves something out.
"I feel like it's missing the most important element, parking lot owners," said Norris, before casting the only negative vote.
"I felt like the towing companies, you can love em or hate em, but ultimately they're hired by the lot owners," Norris explains the day after the meeting. "If they changed the way they run the lots, we wouldn't have this issue."
Norris says the advisory board will likely be appointed this summer, and, after drafting a new ordinance that council will need to approve, will meet once per year.Read more on: towing