WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Wichita City Council failed to approve a new contract that would extend the city’s police impound towing contract after two separate votes.
The Wichita Police Department uses several companies to tow vehicles that are a traffic hazard, unsafe to drive, subject to seizure as evidence, reported stolen and recovered, or if the driver is taken into police custody.
About 1,700 vehicles are towed each year, and the city rotates through the towing companies. Of the vehicles towed, around 700 are auctioned.
In December, a Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued to obtain a towing, storage, and online auction service to handle all police-initiated impounds. After staff review and analysis of both proposal submittals, the Staff Screening and Selection Committee negotiated with all nine towing companies.
The terms of the proposed contracts include the following changes from the previous impound towing contracts:
- Reduce the time that the wrecker company office must be open for the release of motor vehicles back to their owners. Change the opening of the office hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday office hours from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. to 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Wrecker Contractor office will be closed on six major holidays, New Years, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Sundays. No storage fees will be assessed to citizens by the wrecker contractor’s lot office if the citizen picks up their vehicle within three business days following a holiday or Sunday.
- Light duty towing hook/rollback fees increased from $105 to $120
- Overturn/rollover fees increased from $55 to $65
- Dolly service fees increased from $43 to $65
- Winching fees increased from $25 per every 15 minutes to $30 per every 15 minutes
- Waiting time fees increased from $15 per every 15 minutes to $20 per every 15 minutes
- Storage fees increased from $30 per day to $35 per day
- Tarp fees increased from $20 to $25
- Lot fees increased from $20 per day to $30
- Heavy-duty towing fees increased from $250 per hour to $300 per hour
- Title verification fees increased from $20 to $50
- Towing to a police facility increased from $100 maximum to $140 maximum for upright vehicles on four wheels. Other tow fees only, if required, will be charged as per Exhibit C.
- Each wrecker company will remit $125 for each vehicle auctioned only after the towing company collects its $120 and the identified other towing fees per auctioned vehicle
- A 4% percent annual increase was added to this contract that will be increased on each of the four renewal periods on specific identified towing fees
- Each wrecker company is indemnifying the City for any liability associated with the improper sale of a vehicle, or the failure to provide proper notification of the sale to the legal owner of a vehicle
Staff initially presented impound towing contracts to the council on May 3.
After the staff presentation, the discussion was tabled so city council members could participate with staff in conversations with the wrecker companies before approving contracts. The meeting happened last week with Vice Mayor Becky Tuttle and Council Members Mike Hoheisel and Maggie Ballard attending. The sticking point with the mayor and some council members is fees for lower-income citizens.
“This is really difficult for me to support. I understand inflation and all of that. I’m also concerned about our citizens,” Ballard said.
“One comment made by one of the wrecking companies that really resounded with me is, of course, we care about the residents of our community, but we are also residents of the community who are trying to provide jobs and opportunities for people in Wichita, so that was important to me,” Tuttle said.
Greg Ferris, a former Wichita City Council member, represents nine of 10 companies and also spoke at the meeting.
“We submitted a response to an RFP and negotiated with staff prior to that meeting that you had last week for those fees,” Ferris said. “Virtually every fee was reduced as a part of that negotiation. So I don’t think the companies thought they were in position to negotiate against themselves since they already, in good faith, negotiated with the city to reduce the fees that they thought it was important for them to receive.”
He added that the companies aren’t willing to go down further from what they bid on in January and negotiated down in February.
“We all know from January to May what’s happened in our economy and what’s happened to gas prices which is a huge expense, but it is not just gas. When you look at the oil prices and those things, it doesn’t impact just gasoline. It impacts the prices of tires, their lubes, all of those things have gone up to these companies.”
Mayor Brandon Whipple wasn’t happy with the contract.
“You may have negotiated with the city, but not with the council.”
The council voted twice on the issue, and both failed after a lengthy discussion.
The first failed 4-2 with Mayor Brandon Whipple and Council Members Brandon Johnson, Mike Hoheisel, and Maggie Ballard against. Council Members Bryan Frye and Vice Mayor Becky Tuttle were in favor. Council Member Jeff Blubaugh was absent from the meeting.
In another motion, Johnson proposed dropping the city’s processing of $30 to try to get the contract approved. However, it failed 3-3 with Whipple, Ballard and Hoheisel against.
As for a proposal, the council could bring it up again during a special meeting that is going to be held next Wednesday.
“I was told there was probably a couple of those companies that would be willing to come to the table and work with us on that. I’m hoping that they step up and come to the table and see what we can do to continue providing service to our community,” Johnson said.
KSN News reached out to Ferris and tow truck companies. Many didn’t return the call or denied an interview request.