When Ashland Police Department officials kept hearing repeated complaints about wildly differing impound fees, they decided to look into it to see if maybe they could do something to even the playing field between towing companies.




Deputy Chief Rich Walsh, a hearings officer who listens to people appealing police decisions to impound cars, said the issue of impound fees comes up frequently during the appeal.




"I'm obviously not in the towing business and don't know what all is involved. But some of those fees sound incredibly steep," he said. "From our perspective, we want this to be equitable for towing companies, but we don't want to have one charging a lot more than others."




Walsh said different towing companies charge different fees and he'd like to see that regulated somehow &

possibly implementing a cap.




"I think they should all have to charge about the same amount. At this point, we don't know if that means we should draw up a new contract or if we should draft a new city ordinance that would state a maximum charge," he said.




Vehicles get impounded for several different reasons. The driver could be driving without insurance or under a suspended license. A driver could get arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol or some other criminal activity or police could tag what they believe is an abandoned vehicle.




Ashland police have a rotating list of three Ashland towing companies they call when impound services are needed: Ashland Towing Repair at 2925 Hwy 66, Dick's Wrecker Service at 150 Lowe Road and Star 24 Hour Towing on 1119 S. Pacific Hwy.




How much?




Dick's charges $150 to tow a vehicle plus $4.40 per mile and assesses a $35 per day storage fee.




Star also charges $150 to tow, but doesn't charge a per mile fee. Its storage fee is $25 per day.




Ashland Towing charges between $97 and $185 to tow, depending on the location in Ashland where they have to hook up, plus $3 per mile. The company charges $65 per day for storage. It also charges a $65 dolly fee if the vehicle doesn't have keys and an extra "gate fee" if it gets a call after hours or on the weekend.




Neither Dick's nor Star charges dolly or gate fees.




Bill Aney, manager at Dick's Wrecker, said he had no problem with the city putting a cap on towing and impound charges.




"I guess we'll just have to abide by it," he said. "It's not going to help or hurt us. But I do have first-hand knowledge that some companies charge way too much. Some of those charges &

I don't think I could even sleep at night if I charged that much."




Art Lamensdorf, who co-owns Star Towing with his brother Mark, also has an exclusive contract with Medford Police Department. He was the low bidder of a three-year contract with Medford and charges $50 per tow with a $25 per day storage fee.




He said he's able to offer that price because of the high volume he receives with an exclusive contract.




Lamensdorf said if Ashland offered an exclusive contract like Medford, he could probably offer a lower price than the current $150 per tow. But since he didn't know any of the details of possible future changes, he said he really couldn't say how it would affect him.




"If it's a contract we can live with &

no problem," he said. "If we can't live with it, then we'd back off and let some other company do it."




Jim Rowden, who's been employed with Ashland Towing since it started more than 30 years ago, doesn't support the idea of Ashland putting a cap on charges or offering an exclusive contract to a low bidder.




"Exclusive contracts aren't fair to other companies," he said. "Overall, I feel that the less that the government has into a business, the better a company could run."




Options




Police Lieutenant Corey Falls was assigned the task of looking into the possibility of regulating towing company fees.




"This project is in its infancy stage," he said. "In looking into this, we learned that the police department doesn't even have a formal contract with these three companies."




Falls said he's working with Assistant City Attorney Megan Thornton to research the legal aspects.




"At this point, I don't know if all we need to do is draw up a contract or if we need to make ordinance changes," he said. "That's why I'm working with Megan."




He and Thornton are scheduled to meet on May 13.




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