WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A week after rejecting the towing company contract, the Wichita’s City Council met Wednesday and voted 7-0 to approve the police towing contracts for the city and establish a payment plan program for assistance with impound fees. The meeting lasted about an hour. You can watch the full meeting by clicking here.
Last week, the council directed city staff to explore options for residents who could not afford the impound fees.
In addition to exploring a payment plan option for impound fees in certain cases, staff also asked the wrecker companies for their “best and final offers.”
Eight proposals were received. Kidd Towing and Tow All were determined by staff to have the best proposal. A third contract was offered to Arrow Wrecker because it was unclear if the two companies could handle the volume of impounded vehicles.
“I understood the rationale for why the tow companies were asking for fee increases. Everything increases right,” said Vice Mayor Becky Tuttle. “The angst I’m having with this now is we went from nine to three. It seems like it changed in the middle of the process, so I worry about the fairness of what we are doing.”
The city purchasing manager then explained the process saying the situation was unique because it was coming back for a third time before the council.
“We weren’t real happy with the $35 in the storage for each day, so we went back and did a best and final offer. That is the process on a lot of Request for Proposals (RFP),” Melinda Walker, purchasing manager, said. “If we are narrowing it down, we can do a best and final offer to make that decision and come back to city council. That is normally done before we negotiated a contract for that. It is part of our procurement process.”
The council also approved a plan that authorizes the city manager to establish an installment payment program for vehicle owners who cannot pay fees incurred due to the impoundment of their vehicle.
The guidelines are:
- The owner (or renter) of the towed vehicle must be an individual. Businesses, including partnerships, trusts, for-profit corporations, and nonprofit corporations are not eligible to participate in the program.
- All requests for assistance must be received within five calendar days from the date of the tow or impound of the motor vehicle.
- The owner must show proof of valid registration and ownership of the motor vehicle.
- The owner must provide proof of being economically disadvantaged. (Please provide a few examples of qualifying programs.)
- The payment plan would provide for monthly installments of no more than $25 for total amounts not to exceed $600. All fees should be paid within 24 months.
- The plan will limit repayment of the City’s processing fee collected from impound contractors to $5 or less for indigent persons.
- Individuals (owners) may only participate in one payment plan at any given time.
A week after rejecting the towing company contract, Wichita’s City Council will meet Wednesday to discuss what’s next for towed vehicles in Wichita.
The council’s big sticking point in the contract talks was that they believed fees for people whose car was impounded was so high many people couldn’t afford them.
According to statistics from the City of Wichita, in 2021, around 700 of the 1,700 total cars impounded were not redeemed and then ended up being for sale by auction.
“Our goal is just to give people a responsible path forward that allows them to keep their cars, and that makes not only fiscal sense, but also it makes common sense,” explained Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple.
However, Whipple and his staff may have a solution, an interest-free payment program.
“I had this idea that could we just hold the debt as a city, and they could pay us back,” said Whipple. “We asked staff to look into it, and they found that there were other cities that follow a similar path, and so we’re mimicking our plan to other cities that have successfully implemented it before.”
He says he’s open to also discussion about if some things in the plan need to be changed.
“It could be a good solution to move forward.” Whipple added, “but of course, we’re not perfect, so I look forward to the discussion and see if any areas we need to tweak to ensure that this does what we intend for it to do.”
As for the tow companies’ contracts with the City of Wichita, it appears those negotiations are off the table for now.
“They made it clear that they’re not willing to negotiate,” said Whipple. “We tried to negotiate the contract last time with them in good faith, and they didn’t budge. So moving forward, we’re shifting the burden back on the City. [Tow companies] are getting what they asked for where, they’ll get their payment, but my concern is people.”
KSN reached out to Greg Ferris, the man representing nine of the 10 towing companies in the contract talks with the City of Wichita, but he did not respond to our request for an interview.