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Council Votes to Amend Towing Ordinance; Companies Must Stay Open Six Hours after Towing Vehicle

By Paul T. Choate

Tyler McKeithan, owner of Mountaineer Towing and Recovery, speaking at the Sept. 20 Town Council meeting. Photo by Paul T. Choate

Sept. 21, 2012. The Boone Town Council made short work of an issue at the Thursday, Sept. 20 meeting, acting quickly to decide on changes to the towing ordinance following a Sept. 8 dispute over a towed vehicle.

Amendments to the towing ordinance were presented by town attorney Sam Furgiuele at the Tuesday Town Council meeting after a dispute between Mountaineer Towing and Recovery of Vilas and an out-of-town resident that ultimately resulted in the Boone Police Department getting involved. The individual’s car was towed during the Appalachian State University vs. Montana football game. The out-of-town resident contacted the towing company and was willing to pay to get his car back, but was told that the towing company was closed for the remainder of the weekend and that he could get his car back on Monday morning.

Ultimately, the Boone Police Department ordered Tyler McKeithan, owner of Mountaineer Towing and Recovery, to bring the car to Wells Fargo in Boone. McKeithan even said at one point an officer threatened to pursue larceny of a motor vehicle charges against him. Ultimately McKeithan complied and the car was returned to the owner. 

Furgiuele’s proposed amendments required towing companies to stay open for six hours following towing a vehicle. Additionally, towing companies must respond to calls about towed vehicle within 30 minutes, make arrangements for payment to recover the vehicle in 30 minutes and arrange for the vehicle to be brought back to nearby the location it was towed from within one hour.

On both Tuesday and Thursday’s meetings, McKeithan pleaded his case to the council, saying that the amendments were too restrictive and also that the public had not had time to comment on the matter. He also argued the case that if it is late at night, after the bars have closed, he was concerned for his employees’ safety if they had to deal with intoxicated people. He even went as far as to urge the council not to perceive the stereotype of towing companies that they are “all out here hiding in the bushes, that [they are] all predatory.”

Boone Police Department Captain Jim Wilson urged the council to make a decision one way or the other at the Thursday meeting. His reasoning was centered around the fact that there are three more home ASU football games — including homecoming, in particular — coming up before the council would meet again. He also said that if the towing company was concerned for their employees’ safety on returns of vehicle late at night, all they had to do was call the Police Department and they would meet them at the scene. He added that the Boone Police Department’s response time to a call was approximately one-and-a-half to two minutes usually. 

Councilman Andy Ball echoed Wilson’s desire for a quick resolution on the matter.

“I think if we don’t act at this meeting we would be agreeing to strand people in the next month or so,” said Ball. 

Ball introduced a motion to approve the amendments to the town towing ordinance. As part of his motion, he also requested that information about the amended ordinance be posted on the Town of Boone website’s public notices. The motion passed 3-1 with only Councilman Rennie Brantz voting opposed, saying he felt there had not been adequate time for public comment on the matter.