February 9, 2005
Tempe towing companies are pressing the City Council to raise the maximum amount they can charge drivers for hauling away illegally parked vehicles.
Meanwhile, local business and community leaders have accused the companies of breaking the law and want changes to a city ordinance, cracking down on abuses.
The City Council is expected to take up the issue during its Feb. 24 meeting and could forward it to a committee for further investigation, officials said.
"There are clear issues that require reformation," Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said.
The owners of four Tempe wrecking and recovery firms have called for higher towing fees, last adjusted in 1982, according to city records.
Companies are restricted from billing vehicle owners more than $75 for towing and $5 a day for storage, according to the city ordinance. Had rates kept pace with inflation, Pete Colantoni, owner of ATR Towing and Recovery, said companies would be allowed to charge about $150.
"I’d really like the council to give us our increases," said Colantoni, who also serves as treasurer of the Arizona Professional Towing & Recovery Association.
Recently, his company has been accused of overbilling a Tempe schoolteacher towed last month while attending a Sister Cities meeting. According to police records, Sharon Doyle originally was charged an additional $20 for gas and additional hours fee.
"When I said ‘Show me where you can charge for this,’ they said ‘Show me where I can’t,’ " said Doyle, who teaches at Tempe Union High school.
The Tempe Police Department would like the council to add more teeth to the ordinance to discourage wrecking companies from violating the law. Violation of the code is a misdemeanor.
"Unfortunately, when they are caught, the fines are not enough the stop the behavior," Tempe police Sgt. Dan Masters said.
Michael Monti, co-owner of Monti’s La Casa Vieja, said towing is a weapon of last resort and should be used sparingly.
"We’d like to keep towing as an option, but it’s kind of like the nuclear warhead of parking management," he said.