Public, private nonconsensual towing now squared up in Bloomington

In action taken Wednesday night at its regular meeting, Bloomington’s city council approved a change to local law that makes the fees match for two kinds of non-consensual towing.Cropped-No-Parking-Dunn-IMG_9764

Drivers who get their car towed, because city police ordered it, will now pay the same amount as drivers who get their car towed because they’ve parked it illegally on private property.

The new ordinance increases from $125 to $135 the total base fee that tow companies are allowed charge.

The new local law also requires authorized towing companies to release vehicles after payment of 20 percent of the total fees owed, if the owner signs an agreement to pay the remainder. The ordinance also clarifies that storage charges can’t be assessed until a vehicle has been in storage for at least 24 hours.

Wednesday’s action follows a revision to the city code enacted earlier this year, that requires companies that perform non-consensual tows for private property owners to get a license. The fee that a licensed tow company is allowed to charge under the new licensing requirement is $135. The possibility of getting a vehicle released with a 20-percent payment was a feature of the new licensing requirement.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Bloomington’s city attorney, Mike Rouker, characterized the public towing legislation in front of the city council as a “simple cleanup ordinance” that was initiated when the previous legislation on licensing of towing operators was passed. It means there’s one uniform set of rules for public- and private-initiated tows.

Rouker said that uniform rules on towing makes it easier for the public to understand under what rules their vehicle has been towed, and how much they have to pay to get it back. It’s also easier for towing companies to follow a single uniform rule set, Rouker said. And a uniform set of rules makes enforcement easier, Rouker concluded.

Wednesday’s full council meeting did not include any significant deliberations on the ordinance. The public towing ordinance had been referred to the council’s standing administration committee for its consideration. Last Wednesday, the committee met for under five minutes on the topic. Committee members recommended unanimously that the full council adopt the legislation.

The establishment by the city council of several standing committees at the start of the year was controversial, winning approval on just a 5–4 vote. If the council debates next year whether to maintain its standing committees, last week’s five-minute meeting on the public towing ordinance could factor into arguments made on either side.