Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ballard Administration Now Claims Awarding Towing Contract To One California Firm Will Cut Red Tape

The Ballard administration needed a cover story after facing criticism for awarding an exclusive contract to a California firm represented by the former law firm of the city's de facto mayor, Ryan Vaughn, and the Star's Jon Murray dutifully put it to print. Murray's story explains that giving an exclusive contract to an out-of-state firm with no current presence in the city for all city-ordered towing is needed to cut red tape. Nonetheless, the Board of Code Enforcement has delayed approval of a contract for which the Ballard administration refuses to publicly release key details. Here's the explanation the administration provided to Murray:
The proposed vendor, Auto Return, would provide one-stop service. Customers could skip the stop at city hall, paying online, by phone or directly at the tow lot.
That makes sense to Shane. And it would have saved her some time this week.
Because the Bloomington resident had not yet registered her newly purchased truck, she had to iron out that issue first to prove to the city that she owned it. That meant two stops Saturday to get access to the title, which was inside the truck.
Then, after a delayed visit to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which was closed last weekend, she made the same two stops again Wednesday.
“This has really been a big mess,” Shane said after writing a check for $165, including $75 for five days of storage fees.
To her, the proposed streamlined process makes sense.
It’s also supported by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. San Francisco-based Auto Return promises that officers will wait less time for tow trucks to respond to accident scenes and to pick up impounded vehicles.
That’s because instead of paging tow trucks based on which company has the contract for that part of the city, the new manager would send the nearest GPS-tracked wrecker.
But concerns about Auto Return’s out-of-state headquarters and the complexity of the contract have delayed approval by the Board of Code Enforcement . . .
That example is not exactly the circumstances a typical vehicle owner whose car has been towed would face and is not really helpful in explaining the need for an exclusive contract. Someone was really reaching with that example.

Murray's story reports the fact that the contractual role is currently shared by three local towing companies, which provide towing service for geographic areas within the city. Those contracts provide revenues of $1.2 to $1.4 million a year according to the Department of Code Enforcement, which includes a $45 cut to the city for a flat rate towing fee of $90 per automobile. The administration claims the new contract will guarantee at least $1.5 million a year to the city according to Murray's story, but the terms of the deal remain secret. What we know is that towing fees are paid by the automobile owner, who could be faced with even higher fees than are already being paid.

Four companies bid on the contract according to Murray's story, none of whom would speak on the record about the bidding process for fear of reprisal. Murray's original story was updated after it first went online last night to remove the names of other bidders, including one represented by former Marion Co. GOP Chairman Tom John. The City-County Council last year gave approval to a new towing law that allowed the current bidding process to go forward.

1 comment:

Pete Boggs said...

The city's current method's referred to as keystone pricing in the retail industry; where products retail at twice their wholesale cost. Muni-markup in the form of keystone pricing seems predatorily excessive, beyond handling expense.