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