More than 85 percent of the 1,828 towings in Fredericksburg were by two companies, according to information City Council received this week for tonight's public hearing on increasing the fees for towing vehicles for trespassing on private property.
Here is background on the tow fee increase proposal that will be up for public hearing tonight after 7:30 p.m in City Hall council chambers. The city ordinance allows for a $65 charge but towing companies are calling for an increase to $125. Local towing companies hired lobbyist Matt Benka to present their case for increasing the fees.
The tow operator is required by law to fill out a report each time a tow company tows a trespassing vehicle from a private parking area. Fredericksburg Police Officer Jamie Walker reviewed the reports and found that the top three towing locations are Eagle Village, Fall Hill Apartments and Forest Village. Walker also noted that a broad number of business owners, churches, restaurants and public agencies call on tow companies to remove vehicles that are not allowed to be parking at their spaces.
Most of the tows occur between 5:30 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Walker said Shanks Towing and Dominion Towing towed 85 percent of the 1,828 trespassing vehicles in the past 12 months. Both companies share an office and parking lot at 1313 Alum Springs Dr. Walker said there were a total of 17 disturbance calls at this address in the past 12 months.
"There were no citations for violations of the City’s towing ordinance in the past 12 months," a City Council memo states. "Officer Walker reports that Shanks and Dominion have worked diligently to improve the reputation and public perception of their business."
State code only allows for a maximum charge of $125 plus $25 for nighttime, weekend and holiday towings. Some localities, such as Spotsylvania County, do not set a local maximum fee.
- Stafford County: $100 + $35/24 hour storage
- Spotsylvania County: No local maximum – rates must be prominently posted at the premises, and no charge in excess of maximum posted rate is permitted.
- Fairfax City: Same as Spotsylvania
- City of Alexandria: $75 + $20/24 hour storage
- Falls Church: $100 + $40/24 hour storage
- Manassas: no local maximum
Walker also called seven other towing companies in Fredericksburg, Stafford and Spotsylvania to check on fair market rates for after-hour towing of a vehicle two miles within the tow site without the keys accessible. He got estimates ranging from $65 to $150. Spotsylvania, Caroline, King George, Westmoreland, Louisa, Orange, and Culpeper counties all use the statewide maximum rate.
City Councilman Matt Kelly posted on his Facebook page the following questions with answers from staff:
1. Why all the towing at Fall Hill, Forrest Village, and Eagle Village?
Answer: We don’t really know the answer to this question but the tow companies would.
2. How many tows from private downtown lots?
Answer: Officer Walker is asking the PD to see if they can create a sub-set for the downtown.
3. How many of the vehicles were from out of the region?
Answer: We have no way of knowing this information. Our call history sheet includes the nature of the call (“tow away”), date/time/address and caller information.
4. How many occurred during special events?
Answer: When we see the subset of towing call history, we can look for dates that coincide with the 4th of July, Christmas parade, etc. The City also tows vehicles from public streets for these events but this is under separate authority.
5. What are the most common complaints filed against towing firms?
Answer: No complaints filed in the past year.
4. Which firms hired Mr. Benka?
Answer: Ask Mr. Benka.
6. Are towing companies losing money at the current rate?
Answer: Our guess is “no.” They would not have towed 1,800 cars last year if they were losing money doing it.