Wichita City Council members deadlocked on votes Tuesday to approve a new contract with nine towing companies that provide services when police impound vehicles. The towing companies remove vehicles that are abandoned, present a traffic hazard, and vehicles left behind when police arrest the driver.
The contract for the next year has an overall four percent increase for towing services, but some council members felt the fees could be a hardship for drivers who are having financial difficulties. Former City Council member Greg Ferris, representing the towing companies, said they would work with drivers who are having financial issues. Ferris also pointed out that many towed vehicles are left on the side of the road because they are no longer operable, and the owners want to get rid of them. He said many of the cars that are eventually auctioned off are cars that have little or no salvage value. Ferris said the companies are facing higher costs for fuel and other items and can’t go any lower than the fees negotiated in the contract.
Council member Brandon Johnson proposed doing away with the city’s 30-dollar processing fee as a way of lowering the cost, but that proposal failed on a 3-3 vote, with council member Jeff Blubaugh absent from Tuesday’s meeting. The council may reconsider the contract at a later meeting or a special meeting. The current towing contract expires at the end of this month.
The city has around 1,700 impounded vehicles towed each year. Vehicles that are not reclaimed are auctioned, and close to 700 vehicles are auctioned each year.