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Athens City Council refers towing ordinance to committee (OH)


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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – In a unanimous decision, the Athens City Council voted Monday to refer an ordinance that would dismantle the city’s towing regulations back to committee.

 

The ordinance would have eliminated regulations that set towing fees and the process for tow truck operators to get a license from the city.

 

The council was set for a final vote on the ordinance when Council Member Alan Swank made a motion to refer it back to committee for more discussion.

 

The city hasn’t enforced its towing regulations for many years and has instead deferred to the state to set rates and license operators. One of the reasons Swank said he made his motion is to give people the opportunity to complain about towing locally.

 

“If you get towed here locally … and you have a problem, perhaps it was an illegal tow,” Swank said, “who are you going to call?”

 

Right now, Athens residents who want to complain about a tow have to contact the state Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in Columbus.

 

Council Member Solveig Spjeldnes said she believes the council needs to do a better job protecting the public. She said she has heard people complain about bad experiences with towing but said many are afraid to come forward with these complaints.

 

Swank has suggested the city put out a bid for towing operations within city limits. Whoever wins the bid would become the official tower for the city for a certain period of time.

 

When researching the issue, Swank said he discovered some communities put out for bid their towing operations for tows from public property.

 

PUCO sets maximum rates for tows from private property, which is $129 for passenger vehicles. But cities can set their own rates for tows from public property. The rate set by the city of Athens in 2002 is $50 and hasn’t been changed since.

 

“The point has been made that we can’t charge what we currently have on the books because nobody will tow,” Swank said. “If we find out that we can actually have cars towed for less than $129, thus saving all of you money, maybe that’s a good thing.”

 

Community activist Damon Krane expressed his concern for what he thinks the proposed ordinance represented.

 

“The ordinance has never been about creating good public policy that’s in the best interest of city residents,” Krane told the council. “Instead it has been about trying to protect city administrators from being held accountable for not doing their jobs.”

 

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