TURLOCK -- Tow truck operators for one company pleaded for their jobs, while other towing operators said the city had been giving that company an unfair advantage for years.
City Council members Tuesday night heard impassioned arguments on both sides of an updated tow operating ordinance. At issue was a requirement that any company that tows vehicles for the city have a storage yard within three miles of the city limit. That requirement already exists, but hasn't been enforced.
Duane Thompson of Anderson's Towing said his company has successfully worked for Turlock for 7½ years, operating out of its Ceres yard. He pointed out that according to the city's rules, he could locate a yard in Delhi or east of Denair, but it would cost him roughly $2,500 a month to secure and staff a space.
"It is basically a sledgehammer blow to the head," he said. "If you guys don't grandfather us in, we will go out of business."
Employees of Anderson's also spoke.
"Knowing any day I could lose my job is frustrating," said Richard Rice. "The decisions that you do make could save my job, and the company that I work for."
Turlock has a rotation of seven companies it uses to tow vehicles that have been confiscated by police, involved in accidents and the like. Representatives of other towing operators also spoke, saying Anderson's has had an unfair advantage.
Eldo Harris, who runs E's Towing, said he has a yard in Modesto that's roughly 12 minutes by highway from Turlock. "I have the same expense he does," he said. "Why should I have to staff a yard in Turlock?"
Mike Disney, who owns Disney Wise Towing, called Turlock's rules reasonable and said some cities require yards within the city limit.
"It's not feasible that he has this advantage we don't have," Disney said. "I have to have extra employees because I have a yard in Turlock. Why shouldn't everybody else?"
City Council member Bill DeHart said the city has to apply its rules fairly.
"Nobody really wants to put anybody out of a job," he said. "But I think (the grandfathering request) is unreasonable. I find it somewhat preposterous that you would ask us to do that."
The ordinance would require compliance by Jan. 1. But Mayor John Lazar suggested that be delayed until July, to give Anderson's more time to open a local lot, or its employees time to look for new jobs.
The ordinance ultimately passed, 3-1 with Councilman Forrest White voting against it, sticking with the original deadline. Councilwoman Amy Bublak, a Modesto police officer who deals with towing companies in her job, abstained at the recommendation of City Attorney Phaedra Norton until it can be determined whether she has a conflict of interest. The measure will come back for a second reading and final adoption.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343.