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New tow yard ordinance ‘sledgehammer blow’ to one operator

POSTED June 29, 2012 9:24 p.m.

A newly-passed Turlock ordinance could put a local tow-truck operator out of business.

Competitors say that operator has enjoyed an unfair advantage, which this new ordinance will finally correct.

For seven years Anderson’s Towing has been one of seven providers on the City of Turlock’s tow rotation. Each time a car needs to be towed, be it from an accident or police confiscation, a provider on that list is called.

But unlike its competitors, Anderson’s Towing doesn’t operate a tow-yard in the City of Turlock, instead towing vehicles to its Ceres yard. And the new ordinance, approved by the Turlock City Council 3-1 on Tuesday, will require towing companies to use a yard within three miles of the city limits.

Dwayne Thompson, owner of Anderson’s Towing, pleaded to be grandfathered in to the new ordinance. He said, trip-time wise, his Ceres tow yard is actually closer than some locations possible in the new three-mile scheme.

Thompson said he makes about $5,000 per month from being on the Turlock tow rotation. And operating a yard in Turlock would cost about $2,500 to $3,000 per month for security and staffing.

“We cannot lose $2,500 or$ 5,000 a month,” Thompson said. “It is basically a sledgehammer blow to the head.”

Already, Anderson’s Towing has been having financial difficulties. In the first six months of 2011, it lost $39,000, Thompson said; in the first six months of 2012, it made just $423.

“If you guys do not grandfather us in, I am going out of business, plain and simple,” Thompson said.

But competitors, who already run tow yards in Turlock, said Anderson’s Towing should be required to play by the same rules as everyone else.

Eldo Harris, owner of E-Towing, said all tow operators face the same challenges and expenses. Harris said, if Anderson’s Towing was allowed to use a Ceres tow yard, he should be allowed to use his Modesto tow yard to serve Turlock.

“For him not to staff a yard in Turlock is really unfair,” Harris said. “Why should I have to staff a yard?”

The rule has always been that tow operators were required to have a facility within a 3 mile radius of Turlock, capable of storing 20 vehicles, City Attorney Phaedra Norton said at Tuesday’s council meeting. But a past Turlock Police Department employee allowed Anderson to lease a facility in Turlock – as he has done for seven years – but not use it to actually store vehicles.

The Turlock City Council ultimately sided with Anderson’s competitors, approving the new ordinance 3-1. The effective date of the ordinance was extended, from Jan 1, 2013 to July 1, 2013, to give Thompson time to comply and ensure his employees are not detrimentally affected.

“That way, the folks that work there have through the Christmas season with employment,” Mayor John Lazar explained.

Councilman Forrest White dissented, stating that he believed the ordinance should go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013 as originally drafted. Councilwoman Amy Bublak recused herself from the discussion, as she believed she may have a conflict of interest as a Modesto Police Officer who deals with tow operators in her day job.

The measure will return on July 10 for a final reading before becoming law.

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