SALISBURY – A towing ordinance that has been in the works for over a year has moved one step closer to reality, as the Salisbury City Council cleaned it up and made a few changes during Monday night’s work session.
“We need to get a starting point and we need to get that soon,” Council President Terry Cohen said as she reminded the public the process is not over yet because the ordinance will still have to go through first reading, a public hearing and second reading.
Cohen said that it is not likely that every piece of the ordinance is going to please everybody but the council is working toward the needs of the police, public safety, protection of the consumer and fairness towards tow companies.
The ordinance involves general and police tow licenses. A police tow license is placed in the police department’s rotation to be called upon in need of service by the police.
As the council moved through the ordinance, correcting its language and reviewing its policies, it became apparent that the fee schedule involved needs more study and review.
Councilwoman Eugenie Shields questioned if there was a tractor trailer overturned in Salisbury the ordinance as written would only allow a tow company to charge $300 to pull the truck out. She said that the fee was not enough because the work involved with such an accident can be extensive.
Councilwoman Laura Mitchell suggested to the council to exempt large commercial trucks from the ordinance and pointed out there is only a couple companies in town that are capable of such a heavy tow.
“I would say from a fee regulation at least because you have no idea what you’re going to end up with,” Mitchell said.
Council Vice President Deborah Campbell pointed out that the neighboring municipality of Ocean City’s policy is any vehicle less than 26,000 pounds is a flat $150 fee, and a vehicle between 26,000 and 35,000 pounds they charge an hourly rate of $125.
“I think the fees we are setting here should be maximum fees and if the tow company likes they can charge less,” Campbell said.
Mitchell added that an hourly rate would help mitigate the gap between the maximum fee and additional charges due to a large accident.
“If it’s a straight tow, then its hook and go but if it’s more complicated … it’s obviously going to take more time and the hourly rate will compensate for that,” Mitchell said.
The council began discussing other surrounding municipalities, such as Fruitland, and their policies and fees involved in towing. Campbell suggested that the council should give serious consideration to adopting the same fee schedule as Fruitland.
“Every day that we don’t address this we have consumers who are suffering so I would really like to see us get this moving and that just seems like a really practical way to do it,” she said.
Campbell added that this would be the best time for Salisbury and Fruitland to have a conversation to come to an agreement over their towing ordinances and fee schedules.
“It could be a difference of 10 feet,” she said. “It seems to be quite silly to charge one thing if you’re on one side of the ten feet…it might be easier for consumers and just a more practical way of going about it.”
The council decided to work on a separate ordinance involving fee rates to allow more time to study the matter while the other tow policy ordinance can become closer to the finish line. They also addressed insurance requirements, the hours of operation, background checks of employees, procedure of notification of employment, formalized the language, and eliminated towing companies that were listed on the police tow rotation multiple times due to multiple licenses.
The ordinance will be ready for first reading on May 23.