July 28, 2014 8:39 pm – Rob Earnshaw
The city may increase its towing fees.
An ordinance was introduced at Monday’s City Council meeting that would raise the standard towing fee from $125 to $180.
Hammond currently has four towing companies operating without a contract. Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said those companies would continue to receive the $125 fee while Hammond would recoup the other $55 and add it to the city’s general fund, which has taken a hit from tax caps.
“We used to get $42 million a year in property tax revenue and that’s down to $22 million this year which is alarmingly low,” McDermott said. “We have to look for opportunities like this to raise revenue and I think this is a good idea. Towing operators won’t get the increased fee, it will go to the city.”
McDermott said people who usually get towed in the city are those involved in an accident in which their insurance pays for towing or they have “criminal problems” or haven’t registered their plates with the city.
“We’re looking at everything we do differently,” McDermott said. “We’re trying to see if we can do it better. This is one of the areas we’re looking at. It’s a million dollar business to the city of Hammond, probably more. And right now it’s being split up between four companies that tow for the city. It’s a lucrative business for them.”
McDermott questioned whether the city would be better off doing the tows itself or at least having a hybrid in which the towing companies would do the tows and the city would store the vehicles.
“There is a proposal where maybe the city will be in this business one day,” McDermott said. “Being broke has its advantages. It forces you to take a look at everything you do and being creative and that’s what we’re doing. It’s a small step but it’s a step.”
The council will vote on the fee increase at its next meeting Aug. 11.
In other news the council approved introducing an ordinance to put zoning provisions in place for the $18 million to $20 million development of a four-story, 125-unit senior assisted living building on the northwest corner of Hyles Boulevard and Sohl Avenue. The council will make a final vote on the ordinance at its Aug. 11 meeting.
Councilman Anthony Higgs, D-3rd, called for a motion to send a letter to Hammond Police Chief John Doughty requesting a higher police presence in the area of the 900 block of Morris Avenue where on Sunday a woman and her two daughters were wounded by gunfire after one of two men who tried to rob the woman opened fire as she drove away. The motion passed. Councilman Homero “Chico” Hinojosa, D-6th, was absent.