Just a day after elections, the San Marcos City Council tackled the issue of towing Wednesday, eliminating outdated fees and allowing the city to continue contracting with multiple wrecking companies.
Towing companies, or wreckers, will no longer be able to charge drivers a $50 “show up” fee, which was incorrectly allowed by outdated city laws. Previously, wrecking companies could charge a “show up” fee if a car’s owner arrived to move the vehicle before it was on the tow truck. San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams said the fee had been in effect for several years.
Tow truck operators cannot charge a fee if an owner arrives to move a vehicle before it is fully hooked up, according to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
The original ordinance, brought to city council months ago, included a sentence that would have allowed SMPD to contract with one towing company, rather than the rotation system between businesses currently in effect.
After an hour-long debate, councilmembers voted 5-2 to remove the sentence and keep the rotation system. Councilman Jude Prather, Place 2, andwere the two in favor of keeping the sentence and contracting with a single wrecking company.
Williams said SMPD dispatchers currently have a list of towing companies that are rotated every time there is a call for vehicle pick-up. However, it is a problem when dispatched wrecking companies show up late or not at all. Williams said if only one business was contracted, the company would always be ready to respond to a call from SMPD.
Williams said there is often difficulty in getting drivers to the scene of a pick-up in the middle of the night.
Councilwoman Kim Porterfield, Place 1, voted to remove the sentence and allow SMPD to contract with multiple companies. She said SMPD wants wreckers to show up on time. She said because that is not happening, SMPD wants to eliminate the “bad employee” by doing away with the rotation system altogether before attempting to fix it.
Williams said contracting one company would save San Marcos residents who get their cars towed $189,000 a year in wrecking fees. He said $5 of each towing fee is allocated back into the city.
“The city saves money, the taxpayer saves money, and it’s much more efficient and effective,” Williams said.
Councilman John Thomaides, Place 3, said the current rotation system allows employees of small towing businesses to earn minimum wage. They also receive small amounts of business periodically in a city they pay taxes to and operate for, he said.
Guerrero said the issue is not about small businesses or wrecking companies. He said the first vehicles SMPD calls to a scene should be first-responders, not tow trucks. Contracting only one towing business would ensure the best emergency service to people who need it the most, he said. Guerrero said it would be a “win-win” if the city eliminated the rotation system to ensure first-responders could do their jobs more efficiently.