Tow Truck Hijack: Niagara Falls Wants to Raise Rates Tow Truck Companies Pay to City

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Tow Truck Hijack: Niagara Falls Wants to Raise Rates Tow Truck Companies Pay to City

 

BY: Nicholas D. D’Angelo

 

A business that normally goes unnoticed –  tow truck operators in the City of Niagara Falls may soon experience some unwanted attention.

 

According to sources in City Hall, the Mayor’s office proposed a mammoth fee increase for tow trucks operating within the city who wish to be on an authorized tow list that Niagara Falls Police Officers use when utilizing a tow company’s services.

 

The fee for operators to be on the list in Niagara Falls is currently $300 every other year, or $150 per year, which mirrors the county rate.

 

“The rate hasn’t gone up in over 10 years,” said Niagara Falls City Councilman Ken Tompkins, “so the administration clearly sees an opportunity.”

 

According to Councilman Tompkins, the initial proposal from the Mayor’s office was to raise the fee to $5,000.

 

“That didn’t go very far,” said Tompkins, saying that four of 5 councilmembers voted against the mayor’s huge increase.

 

“The proposal at that amount was pulled, but now they are proposing $2,500 and I’m trying to get them down to $1,500.”

 

When asked what the mentality would be behind raising it, Councilman Tompkins responded, “to cover costs for police to inspect the shop, vendors, and things like that.”

 

Niagara Falls City Councilman Chris Voccio understands why such an increase might be necessary.

 

“We are in a pickle financially,” said Councilman Voccio, “so we’re going to have to make a lot of decisions like this. I would rather have user fees or fees for permits and things of that nature go up instead of property taxes increasing, which are already too high.”

 

“There are definitely people in the industry who said they would be happy with a $5,000 fee because it would take some of the smaller guys off the list,” said Councilman Tompkins. “On that same token though there are also people who we know want to get on the list that are willing to pay that kind of money.”

 

As for the smaller towing companies, said Tompkins, “I definitely think it is a shot at the little guys. Regardless of whether it’s $2,500 or $1,500, that’s a big jump from $150 a year.

 

Henry Walerowicz, who owns and operates Home Maintenance Enterprises, Inc., in  Niagara Falls, and whose business offers towing as a service, is totally opposed to the idea.

 

“That’s crazy,” said Walerowicz. “This administration shouldn’t be trying to make up for money they lost by taking it from small businesses operating in the city.”

 

“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “Niagara Falls Police do inspections all the time and give tickets for late inspections or expired registrations every day. I can see it doubling to $300 a year, or even $500, but not $2,500.”

 

Any fee increase would need to be voted on and approved by a majority of the Niagara Falls City Council.

 

Councilman Tompkins had an alternative idea for the city to explore instead.

 

“I would love to see us start storing cars at the DPW lot so that money goes to us,” said Councilman Tompkins. “Buffalo does it. A lot of cities do it.”

 

“Money is in the storage. The DPW lot is already fenced in and has 24-hour security, so there would hardly be any overhead costs.”

 

Councilman Voccio sees similar increases happening in the future as well.

 

“While I agree that a tenfold, or more than tenfold, fee increase is dramatic, there are probably a lot of other things that will come down the pipe that won’t be very appetizing either,” said Councilman Voccio.

 

“The people elected us to make some very difficult decisions and we need to be strong. If we do the right thing, we will put the city in a stronger and more financially solid position. But if we do the wrong thing and cave to various interest groups, then we’re going to put the city in a worse financial position than it is now.”

 

There will be a meeting at the end of this week between Council Chairman Andrew Touma, Councilman Tompkins, and local tow truck operators to discuss what would be fair for a fee increase.

 

 

 

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