Changes may be in store for the way the city of Ceres conducts business with tow company operators when it comes to police requested tows.
Deputy Chief of Police Mike Borges approached the Ceres City Council last week to propose three changes to the city's "rotation tow" policy. Under the policy, the city calls on a select group of eight tow operators on a rotation basis when police must have vehicles towed from accident scenes or when impounded for law violations. The city regulates how much money the operators may charge the owner of the vehicle for towing services.
To ensure sure the tow companies are safe, the city oversees the operators for the hiring of drivers as well as making sure equipment is safe. Borges, however, said the city's administration of the rotation tow program is "a fragmented and disjointed approach" since it is split among an administrative police sergeant, a traffic sergeant and the on-duty watch commander, all who tend to be overworked. He said the "inadequate oversight" system has resulted in failed communications, lack of or poor customer service and potential harmful impact on the community" as well as loss of revenue for the city.
"We were missing things," Borges told the council. "Drivers weren't being background (checked). Fees weren't being collected ... people missed things."
Borges asked the council to put the program under a new full-time Community Service Officer position created from a part-time position. He proposed covering the $37,043 cost for the extra CSO time to be covered by charging the eight tow companies a fee of $3,600 per year as well as Measure H monies. The change has an $11,000 to $12,000 impact on the general fund "unfortunately" said Borges.
If the council approves the changes, the CSO will work 30 hours per week instead of 20.
Borges sought and won preliminary council approval of allowing the tow operators to increase their fees to customers. Those changes include:
• Raising tow fees from $145 to $185;
• Raising daily impound fees from $32 per day to $40 per day;
• Charging a $90 after-hours gate fee instead of the current $55.
Borges said the increase in fees will bring Ceres in line with what is being charged by tow operators for Modesto police and the Sheriff's Department and California Highway Patrol.
Vice Mayor Ken Lane said he had no problem with the increased fees and wanted to see them increased to $190, $50 and $95 respectively. Councilman Mike Kline agreed.
Duane Thompson of Anderson's Tow was present at the Study Session and said he won't mind paying the fee since his company is always paying piecemeal fees to the city. He said he favors the change since "there is a difficult time for us to get a hold of somebody to help us with certain issues, whether it be finding the status of a driver that we've hired ... all kinds of different things."
The council decided to move forward with enacting the $3,600 fee for the rotation tow company fee and increasing towing fees but will be deciding how to fund the increased CSO position at an upcoming council meeting.
"Hopefully we can fund it because I think it would be a lot of savings on what we're currently doing with our officers having to take to do this now," said Lane.
Mayor Chris Vierra was absent at the meeting.