Tow firm asks city for share of calls

Published 12:02 pm Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A towing company with the contract to remove abandoned and inoperable vehicles from yards and rights of way told the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday it wants to know why it hasn’t gotten any business in the past six months.

“Over the past five years … we watched the awarded company tow in countless vehicles … only to secure the bid for 2010, and we have received none,” said Christopher Green of Highway 27 Motors, which got the contract on Jan. 19.

Green did not have any actual numbers to present the board, which largely pleaded ignorance and voted to take the issue under advisement.

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“I can definitely say this, I know that there’s not been any concerted effort not to be having the same numbers,” South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman told Green.

The police department tags vehicles illegally parked. A revolving list of tow companies handles that business on a case-by-case basis.

Another city ordinance says any vehicle left in the same spot for more than five days in a yard or city right of way may be tagged by the inspection department. When an abandoned or inoperable vehicle is tagged, the owner then receives a warning letter saying the vehicle will be towed if not moved. If that doesn’t bring compliance, the matter goes to Municipal Court.

The ordinance, which exempts service stations, repair shops, auto dealers, body shops or junk yards, has not been changed since 1987. Nor has the inspections process, said Building and Inspection Director Victor Gray Lewis. Instead, he said there’s simply been better compliance.

“I did check with our staff and we have not had an incident before the community court in a while,” said Gray-Lewis, who also did not have any hard numbers for comparison. “People have been responding to the letters about having their cars removed.”

Highway 27 Motor’s one-year contract also covers the city’s towing needs for the 337 vehicles in its fleet. Green had no complaints about that aspect of the contract, but said he’s seen plenty of vehicles in violation of the ordinance that are not being tagged.

“As one drives through parts of this city, there are clearly many vehicles that should be considered for removal,” he said.

Robert Johnson, also of Highway 27 Motors, said the city is not being vigilant enough in its enforcement of the ordinance. He said previous companies who have had the contract made it their “full time operation.”

“We’ve just had none of that action since we’ve had the contract,” Johnson said.

Mayor Paul Winfield said the issue was “news to me,” but promised to investigate.

“I’m not really prepared to respond at this point because I have to find out what’s going on,” he told Green. “We need to make sure we do our due diligence. We certainly don’t want to do anything to inhibit your business.”

In Jackson, the city council last week put off voting on a proposed wrecker agreement after several bidding companies protested the terms of its revolving system for police requested towing services. The towing companies, which have been setting their own rates since the last contract expired in 2002, have reportedly said the proposed towing policy in Jackson sets fees too low.