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South Bend police towing contract extended again while city considers new bids (IN)


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SOUTH BEND — The city Board of Public Works on Tuesday granted a second three-month extension to the contractor handling police towing to give the city more time to consider bids from four companies seeking a share of the work.


ASAP Towing & Recovery, which has been the exclusive provider of towing services for the South Bend Police Department since 2016, will continue through July under the extension granted Tuesday morning.

The city decided to seek new bids for the police towing work after reporting by The Tribune last fall raised questions about the city’s handling of the exclusive contract.


In December, the Board of Public Works extended the agreement with ASAP until April to allow time to seek new proposals for the work. The city later said it would seek to divide the work between two companies. Four companies submitted proposals last month to be one of the two firms to share the police towing.


During the board’s meeting Tuesday, board president Gary Gilot said a committee scoring the bids needs more time to evaluate them and “do this thing right.”


The board unanimously approved extending the agreement with ASAP to July 31.


“I do hope they can get it done in that time,” Gilot said during the meeting, which was held by video conference because of the coronavirus outbreak. “We’ve extended it a half-year now, so hopefully that’s enough time to get the bids and evaluate, interview the people submitting proposals and make a decision.”


In the new round of bidding, the city received proposals from ASAP, Hamilton Towing, Tony’s Mobil Service and Vic’s Towing & Recovery.


The city has long used private towing companies to remove crashed and impounded vehicles for the police department. Those companies traditionally have not been paid by the city, but bill vehicle owners directly.


Until 2016, a rotation of five companies took turns handling police towing requests. Then, the city decided to dissolve the rotation and award the work to a sole contractor.


The Tribune’s reporting last year documented how the city awarded the exclusive agreement to ASAP, even though other companies complained they never knew of the city’s plan to seek a sole provider until it was too late.


The Tribune found ASAP had spent more than $100,000 to more than double the size of its storage yard — more than two months before the city publicly sought bids for the exclusive contract. The company also bought a new wrecker for more than $90,000 in the weeks before the city advertised the contract.

City officials have said the city met its legal obligation by twice printing advertisements for the contract in the newspaper.


The Tribune also found the city twice renewed ASAP’s one-year contract without seeking bids, despite exercising little oversight and collecting little data to measure the company’s performance. ASAP has performed upward of 3,000 tows a year for the police department since 2016, according to data released by the city. The agreement allows the company to charge a minimum of $145 for wrecks and $165 for impounds.



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