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City Council to delay wrecker bid decision (2005)


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Topic Originally Created by datowman in July of 2005:


City Council to delay wrecker bid decision

By Tiana Hubbard Print Article


The issue of whether to competitively bid wrecker service used by the city of Cleveland led to considerable debate during Monday's meeting of the City Council. Ultimately, council members unanimously approved delaying the opening of the bids, which was scheduled for Aug. 13, by 60 days. Wrecker company owners and operators showed up in force to object to the competitive bid process for wrecker service.

The question of bidding out the service is not new. But it became a hot topic again earlier this month when Councilman George Poe questioned the disparity in rates charged to customers who use a wrecker independently of the city - a $40 minimum - and those charged when police or city officials request the service - a minimum of $110. "I don't have a problem with the price. It's the difference in the price," said Councilman Richard Banks.

Speaking on behalf of the wrecker companies was Mr. Lynn Wagner. Wagner told the council that serving the city requires the companies to provide locked storage and carry more than twice the amount of insurance they would otherwise. Additionally, Wagner said that being included in the city's current rotation system taxes the companies' resources as city calls are given priority over regular calls. There are also various exposure hazards that employees who are on-call for the city may face, which are not typical of private calls, Wagner explained.

"Everything that has been said is exactly the reason this process should be bid out," said Chief of Police Wes Snyder. "I don't want to subjectively decide who's on the (rotation) list, who's not. This should be about who can provide that service at the cheapest rate to the taxpayer. The only fair way for government to involve itself in towing is to bid it out like we do everything else," Snyder said.

But Wagner insisted that no towing company in Cleveland or Bradley County would be able to handle the demands of government service alone. Gary Norris, owner of another local wrecker company, Norris Towing, explained that the Bradley County Sheriff's Office had required the companies to determine an all-encompassing flat fee, which had been negotiated to $110.

"We have to pay for the privilege of being on the city (rotation)," Norris said in defense of the higher cost for local government calls. Norris said that the wrecker companies were under the impression that the city was in agreement with the county's $110 flat fee. "It's wrong to tell the citizens that because the city calls them they have to pay double, sometimes triple," said Councilman George Poe. "It embarrasses me."

Councilman David May asked whether the city could determine a minimum flat rate to be included in bid specifications. "Should the chief of police decide that? I don't think so. ... I don't have the authority to control him," Snyder responded, referring to Norris. "We are looking for a fair and equitable way to decide. It's going to be hard to subjectively decide what's too much, what's too little." Local lawyer Jim Logan joined the discussion on behalf of the wrecker companies. He noted that the state of Tennessee approves a rate on an annual basis - currently at $125 per service. The city of Chattanooga has adopted the state's fee. The city of Athens employs a rotation system and charges $45 for a basic tow.

Logan suggested that the appropriate fee for the city of Cleveland might lie somewhere in between. Mayor Tom Rowland recommended a joint meeting of the wrecker companies and city and county officials to try and determine a rate for a basic tow before the bid process is completed
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