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Hagerstown considers cap on towing fees

April 02, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- In an effort to control the high price that tow truck companies charge to haul away illegally parked vehicles, the Hagerstown City Council is considering an ordinance that would set a ceiling on the fee.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith told the council on Tuesday that some people who had their vehicles towed during a recent concert downtown were charged $250 by local tow truck companies. The companies required cash, which, given the hour of night, made it difficult for several motorists to come up with the money, he said.

Smith said several of the violators might have been visitors to the city and didn't know they had parked in private lots. The ordinance would make signage more visible and, if a vehicle is towed, allow the owner to retrieve his or her property the same night. People could use several methods to pay, including cash, check or credit card, he said.

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The proposed ordinance would cap the fee at $100 during business hours and $110 thereafter, said Mark Boyer, city attorney. In addition, tow truck companies could be charged with a misdemeanor and ordered to pay up to a $1,000 fine for violating the law.

"What we'd like to do is craft some reasonable regulations," he said.

The city also wants to stop spotters who identify illegally parked cars for tow truck companies to haul away, Boyer said.

Although Boyer said after the meeting that he had no firsthand knowledge of parking lot owners who receive kickbacks from tow truck drivers, he has heard rumors that the practice exists. The ordinance would help prevent this, Boyer said.

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