City Council Plans Revisions To Towing Ordinance

SALISBURY – Proposed changes to the city’s towing ordinance has had city staff busy for some time now, and a list of new adjustments reached the Salisbury Mayor and Council’s table last week again during a work session.

The list of amendments includes the minimum experience required in the towing industry has been reduced from five years to three years; a criminal background check has been added to section for owner/applicants of towing companies; background investigations shall now be conducted on all employees of the towing company; increases the amount of commercial liability insurance to include $500 deductible rather than a $100 and the mandates the tow company lists the City of Salisbury as an additional insured; the fee was changed from $20 to $25 for each 24 hour period of storage; and requiring owners/applicants to post the fee scheduled in a manner readily viewable by the public on the storage facility of the company.

The ordinance pertains to towing companies that apply for a general towing license and for those who apply for a police towing license. A police towing license allows a towing company to be added to the police tow rotation schedule.

The “Procedure for Dispatching Police Towing Companies” section of the ordinance explains that, “The director of Internal Services shall furnish the police department with current lists of all duly licensed police towing operators companies. Whenever the service of a towing vehicle shall be required and a request is made to the police department for providing such services the police department shall have dispatched to the place where the services are required a vehicle operated by that towing operator company whose license was first obtained and then request subsequent towing vehicles as needed on a chronological and rotating basis.”

Council President Terry Cohen explained the ordinance is “upping the criteria for who gets to qualify to be on that list [police tow]”.

“We are taking the steps diligently … to protect the citizens,” Cohen said.  “It’s different when you are just broken down on the side of the road and you call AAA and they send whoever out … we have created a higher level of standards.”

Salisbury Police Col. Ivan Barkley said the department has spoken with different towing company representatives and reviewed other jurisdictions’ legislation involving towing laws in creating suggestions and ideas in “upping” the city’s towing ordinance.

Councilman Tim Spies was concerned over the criminal background investigations on tow truck drivers. He suggested that the language “criminal offense” be specified, he didn’t want to see an employee loose a job over a minor charge.

Councilwoman Eugenie Shields was also concerned for an employee who has a background including a “criminal offense” but was charged over an extended amount of time in the past. She didn’t want to see the ordinance prevent a person from acquiring a job for a criminal activity he or she has overcome in the past.

Councilwoman Laura Mitchell questioned individual licenses of tow truck drivers or employees.

“If we call for a tow and it’s not the owner of the tow company that shows but an employee in their truck how are you going to know on scene if they’re licensed,” she asked.

A group of tow company representatives were present to voice their opinions on the list of amendments to the towing ordinance. Kenny Mills of Mills Quality Towing in Fruitland expressed concern over the ordinance requiring an owner have three years of experience to operate a company and the fee associated with non-accidental towing. The ordinance states to tow a vehicle under 10,000 pounds it would cost $200. Mills suggested $300 instead.

“I just don’t think $200 justifies all of what we need to do sometimes,” he said.

Gary Pusey of Gary Pusey’s Quality Cars in Fruitland said that some of the “suggestions” are great but some are overkill, such as individual licenses for the drivers. He added that the requirement of posting fees on the storage facility is not viable because there will also be fees of other companies, insurance fees and non-towing fees posted and it will create a “confusing cluster”.

“Some way or another there’s got to be some trust,” Pusey said.

Pusey also pointed out the $100 fee for snow emergency and scofflaw tows also “doesn’t cut it” and suggested the fee be changed to match Mills’ suggestion of $300.

“If you pull the bumper off that car trying to load it, you’re liable for it,” he said. “I see that being a problem.”

Councilwoman Deborah Campbell pointed out that the fees and stricter regulations apply only to those tow companies that want to be on the list approved to be included in the police tow rotation.

Cohen clarified the concern expressed over the three years of experience only applies to the owner/applicant of the towing company.

Cohen also asked Barkley to bring forward other towing ordinances of surrounding jurisdictions to be reviewed by the council.

“I think we have identified shall we say some technical deficiencies in the ordinance that are relatively easy to fix,” Cohen said. “I would like to get the information from the police department to review before we ask anymore time of our staff.”