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Bill to reclaim towed car could grow in Modesto

The cost of getting an impounded car released from a towing yard would rise to $160 -- an increase of $70 -- under a nearly finished agreement between Modesto and the city's hauling companies.

Three City Council members endorsed the proposal Monday night during a committee meeting. It's on its way to a full council meeting for a final vote.

The proposal resulted from more than three years of work to bring towing companies under a new city franchise agreement.

Earlier versions of the plan failed because of concerns it was too subjective in determining which towing companies could work with Modesto, or because of complaints from towing companies that the city's demands were unreasonable.

The agreement requires towing companies to respond to calls from the Modesto Police Department within 30 minutes, to submit to truck inspections and to adhere to a code of conduct. Missing any of those standards could lead the city to revoke a company's franchise.

Modesto would keep $40 of the $70 increase if the proposal passes. That charge, to be paid to the city by the companies, is designed to reduce the amount of money Modesto spends on coordinating thousands of tows each year.

One towing company said the $40 charge is unfair because it's due regardless of whether someone pays to have a car released from a storage lot. Towing companies don't get paid for their work until then.

"To make me pay for other people's mistakes, you're taking profit out of my business," said Two Tiny Tows President Dan Want.

Two other towing companies said the proposed charge should pencil out. It comes with an $8 hike in daily charges for keeping a car in a lot, from $22 to $30.

"I can see that our profits are going to increase by this," said E Towing owner Eldo Harris.

Modesto spent about $2 million coordinating 9,000 tows in the city's last budget year. It would recover $360,000 through the charges being passed on to tow companies under the proposal.

"We do care about our businesses here, but we also care about the millions of dollars here," Councilman Will O'Bryant said. "Those are cops on the street."

The Police Department calls on towing companies during arrests, crime investigations and for some traffic violations.

Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at aashton@modbee.com or 578-2366.

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