by BRAD ROLLINS
The city attorney is drafting changes to policies governing wrecker service aimed at reducing overly aggressive towing practices while raising caps on rates companies can charge.
Police Chief Howard E. Williams this month negotiated the rate increases with tow truck companies and suggested a range of options for city council members to consider including a provision that requires tow truck operators be summoned by a property owner before they can remove vehicles. A city council majority, led by council members Chris Jones and John Thomaides, gave initial approval to the change this week, which is intended to prevent tow truck companies from camping outside privately owned parking lots waiting for people to park improperly.
The council also instructed Williams and city attorney Michael Cosentino to add provisions requiring that storage fees be noted on No Parking signs and requiring companies who tow in San Marcos to maintain a lot here. Currently, unlucky illegal parkers sometimes find their vehicle impounded in Austin or elsewhere.
Towing issues burn particularly hot downtown where business owners are sometimes at odds with people headed to nearby Texas State University. Of the 3,368 non-consent tows recorded by the police department between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 327 came from the Nelson Center, a retail strip mall at University Drive and North Edward Gary Street.
Along with the policy changes, Williams laid out proposed increases to towing rates, which had not been raised since the city’s wrecker ordinance was adopted in 2002. He recommended that the fee for a basic tow be raised from $60 to $75 and the “drop fee” for releasing vehicles when their owners show up increased from $30 to $50.