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Declining vehicle impounds prompt Santa Rosa to raise fees

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Revenues are down sharply for the nine companies that tow cars for the Santa Rosa Police Department, in part because the laws about when police can impound cars have been relaxed.

So the City Council voted Tuesday to increase the rates on those whose cars still get impounded.

One a 4-3 vote, the council hiked the towing charges from $190 an hour to $200, and the daily storage rate from $45 to $55.

Thje impound yard at Cream's Towing. (PD File)

Sgt. Rich Celli said that towing companies around the state are dealing with a sharp drop in revenue from changes in state law regarding impounding vehicles for unlicensed or drivers with suspended licenses.

Immigrants rights groups decried laws that allowed vehicles stopped at DUI checkpoints to be impounded for 30 days, costing drivers $2,000 or more. Many just abandoned their vehicles to the tow companies.

But a new law that took effect Jan. 1 requires police to release vehicles taken from sober but unlicensed drivers at DUI checkpoints to a qualified representative of the owner. If one is not available, they must be released to one later at the impound lot.

Celli said companies have seen a 46 percent drop in revenue because of the change. Other reasons for the fee change included consistency with towing rates charged for CHP impoundments and increase fuel costs. If the rates are not increased, then fewer towing companies might participate in the city program, increasing costs further, he said.

Councilman Gary Wysocky said he couldn’t support the increase because it seemed like penalizing citizens who were being more compliant with the law. But the majority supported the change.

“You could argue charging them more would make them more compliant,” Councilman Scott Bartley said.

But Vice Mayor John Sawyer said its not about citizens following the law, but the law being made “kinder and gentler.”

It’s also an issue of towers being paid a fair fee for their services, Sawyer said.

“We want towers to be making a reasonable profit so that they can have employees doing the job we expected from them,” Sawyer said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.





7 Responses to “Declining vehicle impounds prompt Santa Rosa to raise fees”

  1. Snarky says:

    I’m just curious how much $$ is kicked back to the County administrators who approve the lucky “nine” tow companies involved?

    When you have government bureaucrats acting as gatekeepers.. corruption always exists.

    Every licensed tow company in California should be free to participate as they wish without being “approved” by the county.

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  2. Jerry says:

    you mean to tell me that tow companies cant make money-190 bucks for half hour of work by some guy making 10 bucks an hour, then having a car sit in a lot with a bunch of broken down cars and parts for 2k a month. all they have to do is get 5 cars a month, thats over 10k for about 5 hrs of work.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  3. Snarky says:

    There is an issue that we must also correct through voter action.

    The statement by the DMV that “driving is a privilege, not a right.”

    Correction to be made in the future:

    THE TAXPAYERS PAID FOR CONSTRUCTION AND MAINTENANCE OF THE ROADS. GOVERNMENT IS MERELY THE PROPERTY MANAGER.

    I might add, if you just look around, at how poorly maintained the roads are despite the property manager role that local and state government are tasked with by us.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  4. Stephen says:

    You all know as well as I do, but tow truck companies are just one step up from pawn shop owners. They make money doing virtually nothing but for people to pay for a service that strips them of their money and in some cases their pride.

    Illegsls…no sympathy, end of story.

    What raising fees will do is lead to predatory towing. Tow places make money from insurance companies as well so have no fear that they are getting their dollars. Plus, best case scenario for the towing companies is that someone never pays the fee and then the towers can turn around and sell their car!

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  5. brown act jack says:

    Celli said companies have seen a 46 percent drop in revenue because of the change. Other reasons for the fee change included consistency with towing rates charged for CHP impoundments and increase fuel costs. If the rates are not increased, then fewer towing companies might participate in the city program, increasing costs further, he said.Celli said companies have seen a 46 percent drop in revenue because of the change. Other reasons for the fee change included consistency with towing rates charged for CHP impoundments and increase fuel costs. If the rates are not increased, then fewer towing companies might participate in the city program, increasing costs further, he said.

    And, who ever said this really understands the problem. It can never increase the costs to the city, as the public pays the price.

    If the companies don’t want to work for the fees of $200 to tow the car and $55 a day for parking the car in the rain, let them get out of the business! That would allow the remaining ones to have all the business.

    Perhaps it is time for the city to tow the cars, and store them at $55 a day , the city could make the money.

    Or they should let the darn franchises out for bid, instead of negotiation at set prices.

    That leads to things like pension increases, didn’t it.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

  6. brown act jack says:

    And now you know why the financial conditions of the government are in a tailspin from which there seems little chance of recovery!

    There is a loss of need for the usage of a business, and that results in too many businesses in the field!

    Now the reasonable thing to do would be to let the market straighten itself out. That would mean that the lowest performers would close up shop until the supply balanced the demand.

    then the survivors would be able to make money and stay in business.

    But, no, that is not the governments way of doing business,

    What they do is try to increase the price the CONSUMER pays for the service so that the political contributors can stay in business providing support for the politicians.

    Allowing them to charge $55 for daily storage is what brought the increase in the number of franchised towers into the business because they could make money at those prices.

    Excess Profit breeds ruinous competition, and that is what happened here in Santa Rosa.

    Now with increased prices that means that the better businesses will make money and the lower businesses will struggle along until the can persuade the politicians to raise the prices the public pays so they can make more money.

    Holy, Gesmoley, Batman, Something is wrong in Santa Rosa.

    Since when is it a rule that the government must make sure that the business make money. What is that called in political. Corruption, or Socialism, or something equally good.

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

  7. steve humphrey says:

    “Immigrants rights groups decried laws that allowed vehicles stopped at DUI checkpoints to be impounded for 30 days, costing drivers $2,000 or more”

    That reads those caught driving without a license, without insurance, etc. have now been given a pass…with the loss in revenue now made up by those who do comply with the law.

    Gary Wysocki was right.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 5

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