Taxpayers Association boss wants to know if crime victims are being charged

Last updated: October 03. 2013 11:07PM - 2702 Views
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City Council on Thursday unanimously voted to:

• Authorize the purchase of two new 2014 all-wheel drive Police Interceptor vehicles from Hoffman Ford for $77,664 using U.S. Marshals Service forfeiture funding.

• Authorize the sale of surplus equipment, including Department of Public Works vehicles and police vehicles, through L.A.G. Auctions.

• Authorize the installation of stop signs for all directions at the intersection of Firwood and Oak streets.

• Authorize adjustments to Community Development Block Grant distributions, the Emergency Solutions Program and the Home Investment Partnership Program.

WILKES-BARRE — City Council on Thursday heard an earful from the public on issues ranging from the city towing contract to guns at council meetings to a problem with a woman allegedly enticing hundreds of pigeons and squirrels into a neighborhood.

Frank Sorick, president of the Wilkes-Barre Taxpayers Association and a journalist with the Wilkes-Barre Independent Gazette, told council he heard the city is allowing interim tower Falzone Towing to charge victims of crime for towing services, such as towing a stolen vehicle that has been recovered by police.

Falzone was appointed interim tower after city tower Leo A. Glodzik III, owner of LAG Towing, was charged with stealing $2,100 in bait money planted as suspected drug money in a Cadillac he towed in January. His $50,000 annual contract with the city was suspended and is in arbitration.

The city had received numerous complaints that Glodzik, in violation of his contract, had been charging crime victims for towing and impound fees, and officials were investigating the claims prior to the charges being filed.

“When I asked if there was any such memo that stated that (crime) victims are charged went out to the police, I was told ‘Absolutely not’ in an email, when, in fact, one did,” Sorick said. “I have several police officers who told me they received such a memo. So either … your police force is lying or your city spokesperson is lying. … I would believe the police.”

Officials did not respond to the allegation at the meeting. City spokeswoman Liza Prokop left before a reporter had a chance to speak with her.

In an emailed response to a reporter’s questions, Prokop directed the reporter to Sorick to clarify his statements. She said she forwarded to the administration and to police a reporter’s question on whether Falzone is permitted to charge crime victims for towing services.

An employee of Falzone Towing said he had no idea if crime victims are charged for towing services. He said the owners were out of state and could not be reached for comment, and the general manager was unavailable Thursday night.

Sorick and Bob Kadluboski, who provided towing services for the city years ago, said some of the towing and related fees being charged are too high. And, Sorick said, rather than the mayor and tower determining the terms of a towing contract, it should come before council.

“One person should not be making that decision,” Sorick said.

Councilman Tony George said he reviewed the towing contract and copies of Falzone’s bills, and Falzone is charging “as much as LAG Towing. But as long as this contract’s in effect, he’s going to keep doing so.”

George said he also had problems with towers charging a variety of towing rates as well as certain fees such as a clean-up fee and a fee for opening a gate to let a vehicle out. “There should be one price — $150. If he doesn’t want to take it, don’t bid on the contract. And if we get nothing for the contract, fine. We shouldn’t be paid for services. That’s a service for us to clean up the streets. It’s a public safety issue and we should just do that, not worry about making a buck on it,” George said.

“And if we impounded (vehicles) ourselves, (towers) could forget about the impound fees. We could charge the impound fees because we’ve got a lot on Conyngham Street that’s big enough to impound all those vehicles,” George added.

Council also heard from:

• Sam Troy, who noted that some council members carry guns. He doesn’t think guns should be allowed in council chambers and suggested installing a metal detector. Assistant City Solicitor Bill Vinsko said guns can be banned only from schools and buildings in which court is held, according to the law. Troy also praised the administration for installing new street lights.

• Joseph Bockowski, formerly of Jones Street, spoke on behalf of his former Jones Street neighbors, whom he said are plagued by hundreds of pigeons and a multitude of squirrels, and the feces and feathers that go along with them, because his ex-wife feeds the scavengers pounds of birdseed and nuts daily.

Bockowski said the woman has been fined several times but continues the practice. Bockowski and some neighbors who accompanied him to the meeting will meet with Vinsko and Administrative Coordinator Drew McLaughlin today to discuss the matter further.

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