SIDNEY — The city of Sidney is considering creating its own impound lot for vehicles ordered to be towed by Sidney Police.
During Monday evening’s Sidney City Council meeting, Sidney Police Capt. Bill Shoemaker, along with Chief Will Balling, proposed creating a lot so the city could remain in control of what happens with impounded vehicles.
Shoemaker explained that some of the city-approved, licensed towing companies, which store the impounded vehicles, are taking advantage of vehicle owners by delaying notifying lien holders they are filling for forfeiture of an unclaimed vehicle. Often times this delay, Shoemaker said, causes thousands of dollars in unnecessary storage fees to the owner, or lien holder, when the vehicle is attempted to be claimed.
“What we were are seeing, (is) if a vehicle is worth $8,000, typically they wait to process the vehicle until the tow bill is at least $8,000, so that the owner/lien holder doesn’t want to claim the vehicle,” Shoemaker said when talking about an example of a truck that was towed in November 2017, and the lien holder wasn’t notified until June 2019 that they had the vehicle.
He explained in that particular situation, the registered owner was already behind on his truck payments and the tow/storage bill would have been an additional $400, so he choose to walk away from the vehicle, but the lien holder could not find the truck. The truck was worth $15,000 when bought in 2017, Shoemaker said. The lien holder was not notified until after the fees reached $17,000.
Council member Steve Wagner spoke up, seemingly appalled, questioning how towing companies are getting away with waiting so long to notify the owners.
Shoemaker said the police department makes every attempt to notify the registered owner of where their vehicle is towed. However, the registered owner is not the lien holder and once a vehicle is towed, he said, the police department has no way of knowing if it is picked up or not. He also explained the city has no control over when a tow company files papers for an unclaimed vehicle.
“That is why we are here with this proposal,” Balling told Wagner, when Wagner pressed about how the city is involved. “Because we do feel that the citizens are being taken advantage of — not by every tow company, not to every individual — but that is exactly what your point is. I wouldn’t want that, and Capt. Shoemaker is going to say that. I wouldn’t want that to happen to me if my daughter or my son drove my car and then I have this $5,000 tow bill later on.”
The proposed lot would be located at the city’s service center on South Vandemark Road. He noted the lot is currently fenced with privacy slats and is covered by the city camera system. Shoemaker said needed improvements would include minimal fencing and the addition of a hard surface, in order to come into compliance with the city ordinance.
Shoemaker pointed out adding the lot would ensure citizens are paying a fair price for towing and the storage of impounded vehicles, which currently each individual tow company determines. Also, he said registered owners and lien holders will be promptly notified, which would reduce the likelihood of thousands of dollars being accrued.
The funding to cover or offset the expenses could come from the city owned and operated impound lot and parking revenue. The lot would be generating income by tow and storage fees, by processing city’s junk and abandoned vehicles and increased parking enforcement. The lot would call for an operations captain, Shoemaker said, who would run the lot and serve as a parking enforcement officer, as well as assist with parking related incidents throughout Sidney.
Shoemaker explained the records division of the police department will have the large burden of work load added and will need to bring on a part-time records clerk.
City Council members seemed to be in favor of the idea of adding an impound lot. The topic will be revisited during a future meeting after city staff verifies it will not add a financial impact to the city. City Manager Mark Cundiff and the financial department is currently working on the five-year plan, for council to consider at the Sept. 3 meeting.
Cundiff also reviewed the upcoming Zoning Board/Planning Commission agenda for Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, and reviewed prospective City Council Agenda items for the next 30 days.
Wagner shared during council members’ comments they had a full clinic during the Trap Neuter Release clinic over the weekend.
During city manager comments, Cundiff provided a list of reminders, including the following:
• National Night Out is being held Tuesday night, Aug. 6;
• Film crews will be in town for the Great Miami Valley Riverway’s website/social media sites on Thursday, Aug. 8;
• The parks and recreation department’s food program for area children ends Friday, Aug. 9
• Y-FEST is on Saturday, Aug. 10.;
• The new area code 326 will taking affect on Saturday, Aug. 10;
• Sidney Water Park’s closes on Sunday, Aug. 11;
• Fire hydrant flushing around town on Monday, Aug. 12.
Vice Mayor Mardie Milligan and Council member Darryl Thurber were both absent Monday and were excused by council.
In final business, City Council held an executive session to consider the purchase of property for public purposes, the discipline of a public employee and pending or imminent court action. No action was taken after members emerged from the session.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.