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January 3, 2013

Officials look at limiting towing fees

City officials previously said no regulations were in place to cap costs

TERRE HAUTE — The city is considering setting limits on fees towing companies can charge to take away and store a vehicle without the vehicle owner’s consent.

In its first meeting of 2013, at 6 p.m. today in City Hall, the City Council will discuss a proposed ordinance that would lay down a number of regulations for any wrecker business handling “non-consensual” towing.

The ordinance follows complaints last year about a business that was accused of charging high fees for vehicles towed from the now-defunct dance and party venue on Wabash Avenue. At the time of the complaints, city officials said there were no regulations limiting fees or requiring licenses for non-consensual towing businesses.

The ordinance, which could be voted on next Thursday, would authorize the Terre Haute Board of Public Works and Safety to license non-consensual towing companies. The ordinance would also limit towing fees to not-more-than 25 percent above the towing fees currently allowed for companies that tow vehicles for the Terre Haute Police Department.

Those fees are currently capped at $100 for vehicles involved in crashes and at $75 for other towing jobs initiated by the city. There is also a $15 per day cap on the storage of towed vehicles.

Among other things, the 13-page ordinance establishes an annual license fee of $150 with greater amounts charged if more than two drivers are authorized by the company for towing. It also sets mandatory insurance requirements on towing companies and makes it unlawful for a towing business to pay property owners who use their services for towing vehicles.

The ordinance would exempt towing initiated by any college or university accredited by the North Central Association, which has accredited Indiana State University but not Harrison College. It would also exempt towing resulting from a crash, police investigation or city order.

A copy of the proposed ordinance is available in the City Council section of the city’s website at www.terrehaute.in.gov.

• The council is also expected to hear a request from the Terre Haute International Airport and JWS Machine Inc. for a 10-year property tax abatement for more than $2 million in investments at the airport. According to the abatement petition, JWS Machine, located in Brazil, plans to make the investments in a building currently owned by the airport. The abatement would save the company about $55,000 over 10 years, according to the petition, which is available on the city’s website. JWS is moving its operations, which includes 35 existing jobs, from Clay County to Vigo County, according to the abatement petition.

Among other things, JWS Machine provides machining, laser cutting, fabrication, model and reverse engineering services, according to the company’s website.

• The City Council tonight also is expected to take up a request from Mayor Duke Bennett to move $2 million from the city’s Economic Development Income Tax fund into the city’s general fund, which pays for day-to-day city government operations. Last month, the council moved several million dollars from other funds into the general fund at the mayor’s request. However, they were not ready to use the EDIT fund to boost the general fund.

Bennett sought the move to keep the general fund out of the red at the end of 2012, something the state formally requires of cities.

• Finally, the council will also is expected to hear a request from Councilman Neil Garrison, D-5th, to move $20,000 from the general fund into the City Council’s annual budget. Garrison has said the money is needed to allow the council to hire its own, independent, financial consultant to help the nine-member body better understand the city’s fiscal situation. Garrison has sometimes questioned the accuracy or timeliness of financial information provided by administration officials.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.

foulkes@tribstar.com.


 

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