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City tackles towing issue

The Statesboro City Council took the first step towards regulating the involuntary towing in Statesboro by passing an ordinance on first reading that sets several regulations and procedures for towing a vehicle without the owner's consent.

    City Manager George Wood said the concerns the city has is not with the regular towing business, but with what he called "involuntary towing" in which a vehicle is towed because it is parked where it's not supposed to be.
    Wood said the typical price for a voluntary nighttime tow is between $65 and $75 while some towing companies are charging more than $150 for an involuntary tow.
    "There would be a maximum cap set and the reason for that is to protect people from being gouged," Wood said.
    Wood said he believes the primary people being taken advantage of are Georgia Southern students because most of the complaints the city has received come from restaurants and shopping centers near the university.
    The maximum charged is expected to be set at the council's next meeting and Wood said it would be "very comparable" to what is charged when police call for a tow truck to remove a vehicle.
    The proposed ordinance also aims to stop "cruising" parking lots by towing companies and wrecker services who patrol parking lots looking for cars to be towed.
    "What we have is towing companies cruising though shopping centers and apartment complexes looking for violations and apparently have some sort of written agreement or informal agreement with the company that if they see (an improperly parked car) to go ahead and tow them," Wood said. "This prohibits that because it's against state law."
    What the ordinance would require is for the person requesting a tow to sign a document, along with the towing company, verifying the car was parked improperly.
    "That way it gives us an idea of who was responsible for towing that car," said Statesboro Police Chief Stan York.
    Other provisions in the ordinance call for cars towed to be taken to a secure storage location, which is also required by state law. Wood and York said some companies take cars to a "drop off" place where they keep them for a few hours while going back to tow another vehicle. Signs are also required letting people know where their car has been towed as well as how much it would cost to get it back and the method of payments accepted.
    The council approved the measure by a 3-0 vote with council members John Morris and Gary Lewis absent from the meeting. It still must be approved on a second reading, presumably at the city's next meeting, before it takes effect.
    Other action taken by the council included:
    - approving the annexation of 3.07 acres at 115 Dodd Circle and zoning the property highway oriented commercial;
    - approved a variance request to reduce the required number of parking spaces from eight to four and requiring paving of the parking lot within 180 days for property at 17 East Jones Avenue;
    - approved the zoning change to R-6 (single family residential) for property at 109 Broad Street;
    - approved a variance request to eliminate the parking and landscape buffer for the Elm Street Church of God at 29 Elm Street;
    - authorized the destruction of certain municipal records no longer required by law to be kept;
    - awarded a bid in the amount of $176,270.50 to Allied Utilities, Inc., for the Central Street sewer replacement project;
    - awarded a bid in the amount of $243,947.30 to AM-Liners East, Inc. for the Williams Street sewer replacement project;
    - awarded a bid in the amount of $72,377.31 to Rozier Ford for three 2008 one-ton trucks with utility bodies for the Water and Sewer Department.

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