City Council held a study session meeting Monday to field complaints from wreckers as well as hear what Public Safety Chief John Thomas had to say about why changes are being made.
After listening to complaints, mixed with some praise, about the proposed requirements, council members shared their concerns and ideas with Thomas. But ultimately, Thomas makes the final decision.
Wrecker list procedures are reviewed every December and June, and wrecker services can request to be added to the list before Jan. 1 and July 1 of each year. On Sept. 20, Kendrick Paint & Body Shop requested to be added to the list, followed by other companies.
Because the North Augusta wrecker list had dwindled to three companies, Thomas decided to allow additional companies.
Current policy requires that wrecker companies be located within city limits, but Kendrick is outside the city. North Augusta wreckers such as Total Automotive are not happy with the idea of adding up to six more companies that have requested to be put on the list, saying it could possibly put them out of business by taking away their revenue.
"I can't see it being better for the people of North Augusta," said Larry Spence of Total Automotive.
Public Safety says the ultimate goal is to provide residents with timely service. Spence said he doesn't see how a company 15 miles away can respond withinin the time limits of 20 minutes during peak hours and 30 minutes during off-peak hours.
"If something is not broken, why are we trying to fix it?" Spence said of the current regulations. "I don't see how this is going to work better when there wasn't a problem before."
Companies and council members argued that allowing companies within 15 minutes of the city on the list will mean that cars will be towed farther away, creating an inconvenience for residents who need to retrieve their vehicles.
New regulations also require wrecker companies on the list to maintain $750,000 in liability insurance; currently, the minimum is $300,000.
After input from council, Mayor Lark Jones told Thomas he would like to see the following changes:
- Storage facilities must be located within five miles of the city limits;
- The wrecker list procedures should be reviewed annually, not twice a year; and
- Any new policy should not take effect before July 1.
The mayor also suggested that the rotation list be limited to eight or fewer companies.
"We will take these suggestions and fix it," Thomas said.
Changing the radius to five miles will eliminate some companies from consideration, Thomas said, and public safety officials are still debating whether to allow companies in Georgia that meet the five-mile requirement to be on the list.
Lt. Tim Pearson said the department will make a decision "in the very near future." He is unsure whether changes would take affect July 1 or Jan. 1, 2012.