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Published: Wednesday, 1/8/2003

Extra towing fees for police calls questioned

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Randy Delker says businesses can't bear the responsibility for towing for the county without extra charges. Randy Delker says businesses can't bear the responsibility for towing for the county without extra charges.
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IDA - Officials at Monroe County's Central Dispatch Authority have scheduled a meeting for later this month with local towing services to try and convince them to stop charging extra for services when they are called by police.

But a number of local towing firms argues that the extra charges are needed to offset extra costs incurred by them when they agree to work for the county.

The county authority is in the process of overhauling the policies that have governed the agreement between the county and its approximately 20 towing services. County officials say the new policies will subject local tow truck drivers to state restrictions and inspections. They may even have to bid for the right to get a call for service from county dispatchers.

But the owner of one of the county's oldest towing firms says what is needed is not more regulations but enforcement of existing ones.

“It's going to be nearly impossible to be on a [Central Dispatch] call list and do the calls for the same fee as if a normal person called us,” third-generation tow truck operator Randy Delker said.

Now the owner of Delker's Sales & Service in Ida Township, Mr. Delker said the increased costs and added responsibilities required to be on the county's towing list make it financially impossible for small businessmen like him to compete if the county is going to begin regulating prices.

An unscientific survey of several area towing firms showed that the usual minimum charge for service when they are called by dispatchers is between $80 and $100, plus any extra charges that might be incurred to secure the vehicle, and storage. The average price for a privately summoned tow is about $45.

Instead of forcing restrictions, Mr. Delker said, Central Dispatch should have a system to fine or otherwise punish companies that go outside the rates submited annually.

The main reason for the higher rates, Mr. Delker said, is not the calls in the middle of the night or even the time involved in hooking up and clearing vehicles in collisions. Instead, the main drag is the constant stream of abandoned vehicles he and other tow truck operators are called to clear from the county's roadways.

“They're junk cars, and we're having problems even finding junkyards that will take them anymore,” Mr. Delker said.

John Nagle, general manager of Temperance Body Shop on Lewis Avenue, said that he has seen “some outrageous towing bills” from other companies on vehicles at his shop.

But he says most firms that want to stay in business and keep customers coming back, feel a responsibility to treat people fairly while they make their living.

“What's fair to charge? Let's say you get a call at 3 a.m. and you have to go out on the highway and lay down on the pavement where cars are zipping by at 70 mph. Are you going to do that for $45? Probably not,” Mr. Nagle said.



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