Saturday, December 5, 2009

Towing Increase Divides Locals

Audio version available here

-Brad Kutner

City Towing increase

Dose this sound like a familiar story to you? Erica Lewis, a hospital scribe and server from Richmond, went to get a pizza. She parked illegally for just a few moments and came back to her car to find it attached to a tow truck. She spoke to the tow truck driver and…


What I asked was, “What can I do to get you to let go of my car?” and he said, “You can pay me.” and I said, “How much?” and he said, “110.”

This illegal act is all too familiar to the residents of Richmond. So do local towing companies deserve the proposed towing fee increase Richmond City Council is voting on December 14th?
Ronald Marshall, President of Marshall Towing and member of the City Towing Advisory board thinks so.

“Everything has gone up in 10 years. My insurance premiums have increased 10 percent every year, the cost of equipment has gone up. The fuel prices in 1999: we were paying about 80 cents a gallon, and in the last few years has been as high as $5.00 a gallon

Wouldn’t you be angry if you hadn’t received a raise in 10 years?
The rate increase would only affect private lots, not city land such as streets. The proposed amount increase is from 65$ to 125$, which is the state-wide max fee.

Harry Mosley, president of the Renaissance Conference Center and member of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, strongly opposes the increase saying:

The problem that has occurred is over the last couple of years, we have towing companies that have abused the fact that the city’s regulation is only 65$ a tow. We have clients coming in from the counties and other parts of the city and they have to be very concerned or they might come back and not just have a 20$ ticket, but have their car lost, and then find out they are gonna have a $125 fee on top of that is not leaving the best taste in anybodies mouth on doing business in the downtown area.

Victoria Benjamin, Chair of the Towing Advisory board for the City Council for the City of Richmond, got into her position to stop these kind of past injustices from continuing. The Towing Advisory Board’s job is to help protect consumers when dealing with towing companies. Benjamin, in conjunction with Ronald Marshall and other local towing companies, is working to help both Richmond citizens and the towing companies in this time of parking crisis.
In addition to standardizing confusing parking signs, and increasing the maximum fee, provisions have been put into the proposed legislature that will protect those who are being towed. Towing companies will have to take 3 different forms of payment, no longer only accepting cash, signs must be displayed in towing offices informing the towed individual of the maximum amount they are allowed to be charged, 125$, and a hotline which directs calls directly to Richmond City Police offices, will be created to handle complaints against towing companies. Towing companies found violating these laws will no longer receive the simple 100$ fine that is in place now, Benjamin explains.

one thing council wanted to see was a little more teeth as far as compliance, so now, what is also in the proposed ordinance, there is language which makes it a class one misdemeanor if you violate the towing code section.

The new legislation will also mandate a max 30$ drop fee if a person finds their car about to be towed, but not moved from its original location.

Marshall understands the flack his industry receives, however he explains its necessity.

We work solely for private property owners. So if you own a big apartment building ,and you’ve got 120 apartments and 120 parking spaces, you need to enforce that parking for your tenants you need to enforce that parking for your tenants. And if you live there, and you come home, your gonna want a place to park your car. And that’s what we enforce.

But Mosley feels city council is looking after the wrong industry.
City council is real up in arms about protecting this tow truck drives with little no concern to how its perceived. The much larger group is the clientele who will be coming down here to spend their dollars and figure out if they want to do business in Richmond or just go out to the county were they don’t have to worry about parking.

City council will hold a public forum before the vote on December 14th. Those who wish to voice their concerns are welcome to attend at the second floor of 900 East Broad Street at 6 PM

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