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Daily Breeze: Hawthorne City Council's towing choice is an L.A. firm

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  • Brent Morgan
    Find this article at: http://www.dailybreeze.com/news/articles/3434671.html Today is Wednesday, July 26, 2006 Originally published Thursday, July 27, 2006
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 27, 2006
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      Today is Wednesday, July 26, 2006
      Originally published Thursday, July 27, 2006
      Updated Thursday, July 27, 2006
      Hawthorne City Council's towing choice is an L.A. firm
      U.S. Tow is picked over Torrance options despite a report that casts doubt
      on the company's level of service.
      By Doug Irving
      Daily Breeze

      Hawthorne has handed its potentially lucrative but scandal-plagued towing
      contract to a large Los Angeles company despite an internal report that
      suggested its service may fall below city standards.

      Council members overrode that report with little debate on Tuesday evening,
      voting 3-1 to hire U.S. Tow Inc. as the city's new tow yard. Councilman Gary
      Parsons cast the lone "no" vote, saying a company based closer to home would
      better suit Hawthorne's needs.

      The towing contract has been a source of trouble in recent years. The last
      company to hold it, S&W Towing, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a series
      of felony charges related to how it sold abandoned cars.

      The city is still working out the terms of its new three-year contract with
      U.S. Tow. But the agreement could be worth about half a million dollars a
      year plus storage fees, based on the going rate for tows and the number of
      cars Hawthorne impounds.

      The company will haul away and impound the cars of suspected drunken drivers
      and others caught behind the wheel illegally. In Hawthorne, that adds up to
      about 400 cars a month -- more when police run license checkpoints and other
      special stings.

      U.S. Tow has a sprawling impound lot south of downtown Los Angeles and plans
      to lease another piece of land in Hawthorne for storing cars. Company
      officials estimated that it would take several weeks to turn the Hawthorne
      property into a working car lot.

      In the meantime, anyone whose car gets towed will have to travel to Los
      Angeles to get it back. The company has offered to run a regular shuttle
      between Hawthorne and its main impound lot.

      But the arrangement raised some concern among the police officers who
      reviewed the towing companies that applied for Hawthorne's contract. U.S.
      Tow's service "might fall below the satisfactory mark" until it gets its
      Hawthorne lot up and running, they wrote in an internal report to city

      The report also indicates that U.S. Tow has a smaller fleet of tow trucks
      than some other companies and already handles major contracts in other
      cities. The "addition of the Hawthorne contract," the report notes, "might
      prove to be overwhelming."

      The police report favored another tow company -- Van Lingen Towing Inc.,
      based in Torrance. That company has worked with Hawthorne in the past and
      already has impound lots close to town, in Torrance and Inglewood.

      Van Lingen, the report concluded, is "the only (company) that can
      immediately provide a high level of service" to Hawthorne.

      But Hawthorne's City Council has refused to do business with Van Lingen
      because the company once involved the city in a lawsuit. It has since
      dismissed the city from the case, but that didn't help on Tuesday evening.

      Council members who had toured the six companies vying for the contract said
      they were sure U.S. Tow could step in without a problem. They named Frank
      Scotto Towing of Torrance as a backup, despite concerns raised by the Police
      Department of long response times.

      The vote to award the contract to U.S. Tow came after only a few minutes of
      discussion. Mayor Larry Guidi and council members Pablo Catano and Ginny
      Lambert voted for U.S. Tow; Councilman Parsons voted against the company,
      and Councilman Louis Velez was absent.

      The council will likely ratify the final contract next month.
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