Tow Franchise Eyed For Revenue Boost

OCEAN CITY — The town is considering establishing yet another franchise in order to raise revenue and reduce costs, as officials announced this week their desire to allocate the responsibilities for vehicles towed by the police department to the private sector.

City Manager Dennis Dare said this week the move could save a substantial amount of money and ease responsibility for a shorthanded city workforce.

“Currently we have a list of companies that the police department rotates through for police tows,” said Dare. “We are looking at the feasibility of having a franchise do all the police tows. We aren’t trying to put anyone out of business here, but we are just trying to find one entity to do all of our police tows and to run our impound lot and pay a franchise fee for that.”

Dare said he is unsure how much revenue the move would bring in, but he hopes it will be in the “six-figure range.”

If passed and a proper bidder is found, one company would then handle all the police tows throughout the year, and the franchise holder would be able to subcontract to other local tow companies if it so choose during the extremely busy summer months when the demand might exceed a single company’s supply of trucks.

At this week’s Police Commission meeting, some of the specifics were discussed informally. Reportedly, the town will be requiring that a tow company own at least two tow trucks, but have at least eight accessible trucks in a short period of time and must meet a 30-minute response time per call. In addition, the franchise contract would last between 3-5 years, although the town is working to add an escape clause in the contract if the franchisee does not perform up to town standards. Exact numbers needed for insurance purposes are being evaluated, as are all possible situations that could arise for after-hours business and who should have access to the city impound lot.

“I’d really like to see this happen, and I want to see it happen soon,” Councilman Jim Hall said.

Mayor Rick Meehan is in favor of establishing a tow franchise in Ocean City, but assured that the town would ensure that pricing would be fair and the quality of service would be high.

“Again, this is another way for us to downsize our government and reduce our costs while producing revenue at the same time,” said Meehan. “I’m very much in favor of this. It has a lot of advantages but we will make sure that the public is treated fairly and in doing this, it helps private local businesses too.”

After specifics are ironed out and an ordinance gets approved, a sealed bid process for the potentially lucrative towing franchise will commence.