News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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January 11, 2013

City Council approves ‘non-consensual towing’ regulations

TERRE HAUTE — Less than a year after hearing allegations that a Terre Haute towing company was asking $225 to release impounded vehicles, local lawmakers have imposed new regulations on “non-consensual towing” practices in the city.

The nine-member Terre Haute City Council voted unanimously Thursday night in favor of a new ordinance that places caps on non-consensual towing and vehicle storage fees. It also requires city-issued licenses for non-consensual towing companies, sets minimum insurance requirements for towing company operators and prohibits towing companies from paying parking lot owners a fee per vehicle towed, what some council members said amount to a “kickbacks” for towed vehicles.

“We’ve solved a big problem,” Councilman John Mullican, D-6th, said after the meeting. Mullican first brought the ordinance to the council at last week’s informational “sunshine” meeting.

Under the ordinance, the maximum non-consensual towing and storage fees would be capped at 25 percent greater than the current cap on towing and storage done on behalf of the Terre Haute Police Department. Those fees are currently capped at $100 for vehicles involved in crashes and $75 for other towing jobs initiated by police. Police-initiated storage fees are currently capped at $15 per day.

The ordinance passed unanimously but only after three amendments were made to the 13-page document. One amendment removed language requiring towing companies from providing 24-hour access to stored vehicles.

The new ordinance will take effect in 45 days. A full copy is available in the City Council section of the city’s website, www.terrehaute.in.gov.

n Also Thursday night, Norm Loudermilk, the 2013 council president, announced a new system in which individual council members will act as points-of-contact with city department heads. Under the system, department heads will be expected to work with designated council members for budget adjustments or other matters brought before the council.

Loudermilk, speaking after the meeting, said a similar system was in place during the administration of former Mayor Judy Anderson but eventually faded away. He said it will improve communication between the council and the administration.

The new system is designed to give individual council members an expertise in specific departments and an ability to better understand budget and other requests, Loudermilk said.

Loudermilk said he also wants to introduce budget hearings with individual department heads, attended by the mayor and the city controller. He also announced the future formation of an ad hoc Budget and Spending Oversight Committee designed to discover ways the city can find budget savings.

n Finally, the council also approved a 10-year property tax abatement for JWS Machine Inc. for more than $2 million in investments at Terre Haute International Airport – Hulman Field. JWS is moving its operations, which includes 35 existing jobs, from Clay County to Vigo County, according to Lou Britton, an attorney representing the company. The company is currently negotiating a lease with the Terre Haute International Airport to lease the former Ivy Tech building at the facility, he said.

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

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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