DeKALB – Drivers parking illegally in the city will have to pay higher towing fees under a DeKalb City Council ordinance passed Monday.
The council’s 6-2 vote also was approved for final action and will be enacted immediately.
Aldermen Ron Naylor and Dave Baker of the 5th and 6th wards, respectively, voted against the ordinance.
Drivers who park illegally in the city will have to pay a fee of $75 once a towing vehicle has begun moving their car.
If a driver was illegally parked in a privately owned space, the driver might pay up to $170.
The city also can tow a vehicle if the driver is connected to an illegal activity. For instance, if a person was transporting marijuana or driving under the influence of alcohol, police can have the car towed and impounded.
To have the car released, the person would have to pay an administrative fee of $500, in addition to any other fees or charges that might have been levied.
DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery said steep towing charges act as a deterrent to crime.
“Individuals who have a propensity to commit street crimes, one of their essential items is their motor vehicle,” Lowery said.
Lowery said the city might not get to keep the administrative fee because the owner of the car is entitled to due process.
DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen said he does not predict this ordinance will have much impact on regular drivers.
“Regular drivers shouldn’t see anything different than what we’ve had,” Povlsen said. “If you’re illegally parked ... there’s an increase in the fee. There’s no change in the procedure except the fee.”
The ordinance does address signs around the city that list parking restrictions and fees. The ordinance puts the onus of replacing the signs on the property owner and towing company.
City Manager Mark Biernacki said if the sign says towing will cost $55, then the tower cannot charge more than $55, regardless of what the ordinance allows.
The city is also branching out on who gets to tow on behalf of it. For the past 17 years, all city-initiated towing has been done by Lovett’s 24 Hour Towing. However, under the ordinance, the police will set up a tow rotation among, at most, three DeKalb-based companies.
Lowery said he has no complaints against the services Lovett’s has provided, but having more than one company is helpful in situations that require massive amounts of towing. On homecoming weekend, Lowery ordered the towing of 24 vehicles that were illegally parked and cited a number of times.
Bill Lovett, owner of Lovett’s 24 Hour Towing, voiced his disapproval to the City Council about sharing duties with two other companies. He said the loss of exclusivity will hurt his business.
“We can’t say no, we have to be there, and we’re fine with that,” Lovett said. “Some tow companies, if they don’t want to go they don’t have to go. We don’t have that luxury. We don’t want that luxury. We want to be there to serve our community.”