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Maximum towing fees regulated
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People who have their cars towed for parking improperly won't have to pay as much to get it back as they have in the past after action taken Tuesday by the Statesboro City Council.
    The council voted 4-1 to set the maximum fee for a non-consensual tow at $85 and a maximum storage fee of $20 a day. Under state law, companies can not charge a storage fee for the first 24 hours.
    The change came two weeks after the council tabled discussion on the fee for more time to look at its impact. It had previously enacted an ordinance regulating towing practices, but failed to set a maximum fee that could be charged.
    Previously, wreckers and tow services could charge up to $125, a price set by the state's Public Service Commission. However, after receiving numerous complaints about towing, especially around Georgia Southern, the council decided to act.
    Councilman Will Britt was the only person to vote against the fee change, saying he didn't think $125 was an excessive charge.
    "The problem was people were feeling like there was abusive towing and by passing the ordinance we did (two weeks ago), I think we fixed 95 percent of the concerns," Britt said.
    Britt said the state set the $125 rate for a reason and he didn't seen a reason why the city should change it.
    Statesboro Mayor Bill Hatcher, however, said he'd received several complaints from people who thought $125 was excessive.
    When the council approved their ordinance two weeks ago, there was still some question as to the legality of the city regulating the towing industry, with some saying that fell to the Public Service Commission. However, both City Attorney Sam Brannen and City Manager George Wood assured the council on Tuesday they had the authority to regulate the business.
    Wood said the ordinance passed at the council's previous meeting did not regulate the entire towing industry in Statesboro, only the non-consensual tows.
    Other action taken by the council on Tuesday included:
    - approved the rezoning of property at the corner of Buckhead Drive and Brannen Street to allow the construction of two separate fast food restaurants with shared parking;
    - approved the rezoning of an 0.87 acre parcel to allow the construction of a commercial retail building on Stambuck Lane;
    - approved, on second reading, the annexation of property on Cawana Road and a Planned Unit Development with an R-15 overlay zoning for the property;
    - approved, on second reading, the annexation of property on Highway 301 North and zoned it at highway oriented commercial;
    - authorized the Public Works director to place signs prohibiting on-street parking on West Vine Street between Walnut Street and South Main Street due to safety concerns;
    - adopted, on first reading, an ordinance authorizing a capital cost recovery fee for the extension of water and sewer trunk lines into areas with and adjacent to the city limits;
    - set a public hearing for Tuesday, June 12 at 5 p.m. regarding the city's fiscal year 2008 budget.
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