Allen County may bid for towing

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Sheriff Tom Williams would like to take the guess work out of who will show up when deputies call for a vehicle to be towed.
“It would be good to have it structured,” Williams told Allen County commissioners Tuesday morning.
As it is, three firms — Gerald Lilly, Iola, Terry McDonald, Gas, and Hillside Towing, Chanute, through a driver who lives in Humboldt — provide towing services and are called in rotation. When the county impounds a towed vehicle, it is placed in a fenced lot near the county maintenance building south of Iola near the old Lehigh Cement plant.
“We’ve had vehicles broken into and things stolen,” William said, an outcome difficult to control at the isolated impound lot without 24-hour surveillance.
Williams would like to eliminate the rotation and settle on one company to tow and store vehicles so it would be the responsibility of the tow company, and its insurance company, to deal with losses if a theft occurs.
During all of 2008, 19 vehicles were towed at behest of county officers. Total charge was $4,618, which includes $2,643 to remove a farm tractor from an accident site west of Iola in which Wayne Garrett died. Average cost for the other 18 vehicles was $110.
Williams said abandoned vehicles, those that pose a traffic hazard and ones seized so officers could collect evidence prompted the bulk of calls his deputies made for tow trucks with charges directed to the county. Most accidents result in an insurance company paying the tow bill.
Having the service arranged by bid likely would save money, the sheriff said.
“Now, the cost varies according to who does the towing and there have been significant differences in charges,” Williams said.
“I’d rather put the money in the jail or emergency management than pay twice as much for towing,” agreed Commissioner Rob Francis.
A decision to bid towing services likely will be made next week when all three commissioners are available. Dick Works was gone Tuesday.