City Council to vote on rescinding predatory towing ordinance

June 9th, 2015 8:56 pm

First Posted: 6/10/2014

WILKES-BARRE — City Council will vote Thursday on rescinding its predatory towing ordinance that was enacted in 2010.

Council discussed the issue at its work session Tuesday and Chairman Bill Barrett, who advocated for the ordinance, seemed resigned to the idea of ridding the city’s books of the ordinance that was really never enforced.

The somewhat controversial law set towing rates and required written authorization before a vehicle could be towed from private property

“There was always a question about enforcement,” Barrett said. “Even though there are other cities in the U.S. and Pennsylvania that use similar ordinances.”

City Clerk Jim Ryan said it was decided that if the ordinance couldn’t be enforced, it shouldn’t be on the books.

Attorney Bill Vinsko, assistant city attorney, said the decision does not affect the city’s towing contract with Falzone Towing Service, which pays the city $4,208 per month to hold the contract.

Barrett recommended the ordinance be rescinded and then the issue be reviewed.

“Then we can look at a new ordinance if we want to and go from there,” he said.

Since the ordinance was enacted, questions persisted regarding which department would enforce it, so it was suspended and never enforced, Barrett said.

In 2010, Barrett, a former city police chief, pushed for the ordinance after hearing complaints from people about the fees and the practice of some private towers patrolling for vehicles not authorized to park on private lots and properties. The ordinance required towers to obtain an annual license and receive written authorization from the vehicle owner or the person in control of the property where the vehicle was left unattended before towing it.

Council held an executive session prior to the work session to discuss real estate matters, Vinsko said. The topic was the relocation of a proposed natural gas main on North Washington Street.

Last month, resident Robert Smalls addressed council regarding the proposed route for the gas line that would run next to his house on North Washington Street.

Council removed a resolution regarding an easement for the installation of a 12-inch main by UGI Penn Natural Gas Inc. to allow Vinsko time to consider changing language regarding how close the line would be to Smalls’ house.

The proposed resolution called for the utility to pay $10,500 for the easement to install the pipeline on city property and prohibit construction of buildings or permanent structures within 10 feet of the main. But the proposed route would place the main under Oakley Lane within seven feet of Smalls’ house, reducing the buffer zone for him.

The existing main that runs under North Washington Street will be purged of natural gas and capped, making it dormant.