Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater considering savings of using single wrecker service

CLEARWATER — The city's protocol for towing wreckage from a car crash has been the same for 30 years. Police dispatchers cycle through a rotation, awarding the business to the towing yard at the top of the list.

For a dozen Clearwater towing shops, those 40 calls a week became business they could depend on. The city allowed companies to charge drivers up to $95 for each hookup, plus fuel and fees for extras like dollies. More lucrative work, like body repair on the damaged cars, often followed.

But as city budgets have dried up, officials have suggested dissolving the list. They say that contracting the jobs to one towing company would be more efficient, easier to maintain, and would save the city about $27,000 a year.

That proposed change has wrecker drivers fuming. They say their small shops, many of them on the city's rotation for decades, could lose thousands of dollars a week in work.

"All us mom-and-pop shops are at their mercy," said Leonard Bosi, a manager at Jimmie's Auto Body and Towing. "We've got guys who are going to end up losing their houses, their cars, everything."

The new contract would unburden police dispatchers, end confusion over complaints and establish fines for late wrecker drivers, Clearwater purchasing manager George McKibben wrote in an e-mail. It would also erase a $30 fee the city pays for impounding.

Responses to the city's request for proposals are due next month. Officials expect a contract will be signed by the end of the year.

Owners of small tow lots say the contract, which requires a 20,000-square-foot storage compound, caters unfairly to big businesses. At a city meeting Monday, some owners in the rotation said they felt surrounded by larger companies, headquartered out of town.

"It was like a bunch of hawks standing around a bunch of little birds," said Pete Dimilta, owner of Pete's Towing and Recovery.

City Council members have offered no apologies, saying any change that could save money was worth a shot. "Our responsibility to the taxpayers," council member Paul Gibson said, "is to run the city government as efficiently as we can."

But Ginger Darling, a driver and owner of Nationwide Towing for 30 years, said paying less for work and cutting out competition could end up costing the city more than it saves.

"What did your mama teach you when you were a kid?" Darling said. "She taught you No. 1, you get what you pay for. And she taught you No. 2, have a Plan B."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or [email protected]

Clearwater considering savings of using single wrecker service 05/25/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 26, 2011 10:35am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning edges Red Wings on road

    Lightning Strikes

    DETROIT — The digs were different, the Lightning seeing the masterfully-done new Little Caesar's Arena for the first time.

    Lightning center/Red Wings’ killer Tyler Johnson gets past defenseman Trevor Daley on his way to the first goal of the game.
  2. Armwood pulls away to defeat Plant 27-7, remain undefeated


    SEFFNER — First-year Armwood coach Evan Davis pulled out all the stops to get his team psyched for Monday's annual grudge match against Plant.

    Armwood defensive end Malcolm Lamar (97) gets fired up before the start of the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017.
  3. Clearwater police: Car thief dead after owner fires gun


    CLEARWATER — One man is dead after the owner of a car fired shots at the thieves who were stealing it Monday night, police said.

  4. Iraqi forces sweep into Kirkuk, checking Kurdish independence drive


    KIRKUK, Iraq — After weeks of threats and posturing, the Iraqi government began a military assault Monday to curb the independence drive by the nation's Kurdish minority, wresting oil fields and a contested city from separatists pushing to break away from Iraq.

    Iraqi security forces patrol Monday in Tuz Khormato, about 45 miles south of Kirkuk, a disputed city that the government seized in response to last month’s Kurdish vote for independence.
  5. Trump and McConnell strive for unity amid rising tensions


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, tried to convey a sense of harmony Monday after months of private feuding that threatened to undermine their party's legislative push in the coming weeks to enact a sweeping tax cut.

    President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell field questions Monday in the Rose Garden of the White House. “We have been friends for a long time,” Trump said.