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    Friday, October 19, 2018-3:59:03P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Lawmakers want towing fees capped

“MY colleagues and I have received many complaints about the steep towing fines and fees in Garapan that average about $500 per tow,” Precinct 1 Rep. Edwin Propst said.

He added that he is still trying to figure out what exactly the fees are.

“Our constituents’ receipts show a towing fee of $220, but Finance records show the towing fees are $120.”

There are also differences in storage fees as well, he added.

There are fees that say “miscellaneous,” but those who have been towed have no idea what those fees were for, Propst said.

On March 2, 2018, the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services implemented the fire-lane regulations in Garapan.

By law, the fines are $150 for violations of fire-lane parking restrictions;  towing, $220; and storage $20 a day.

“The $150 is comparable to what is charged for parking illegally in a disabled parking space, and that’s fine, but it pales in comparison to all the other charges that pile up,” Propst added.

He said he had a constituent who parked in a legal parking space next to Johnny’s Bar and Grill, but his bumper was about a foot over the red fire-lane mark, so he was towed.

 “An elderly man who is disabled and has health problems parked in a red zone to use the bathroom at a restaurant and when he came out 10 minutes later, he was told his car was being towed.  He told me he explained to them that he couldn’t find an available disabled parking stall and desperately needed the restroom but his vehicle was still towed.”

Propst said another constituent “parked in front of the Sura Restaurant where she met up with her friends and told them where she parked, but they told her to move her car immediately because it was a red zone.  So she went to move her car but was told the tow truck was on the way.  When she asked if she could just receive the ticket and move her car, she was told she would be arrested if she moved her car.  She waited 20 minutes for the tow truck to arrive.”

Propst, Reps. Vinnie Sablan, Ivan Blanco, Donald Barcinas and House Minority Leader Ed Villagomez have introduced House Bill 20-171 which will establish maximum allowable towing and storage fees for vehicles on public and private property.

According to the bill, “Without a ceiling set for towing and storage fees, towing companies are able to set their own towing and storage rates that are often found to be grossly inflated and unjustifiable.”

It added, “It has come to the Legislature’s attention that towing companies in the CNMI have been aggressive with their towing practices and prices. Towing companies have had the freedom to charge whatever they want for towing and storage and will hold vehicles hostage until the inordinate rates are paid.”

H.B. 20-171 said the charge should not be more than $100 for a tow, or $110 for a tow using a dolly, plus a mileage charge of $8.50 per mile towed and $20 per day or a fraction thereof for storage for the first seven days and $15 per day thereafter.

“When the tow occurs between the hours of six o’clock p.m. and six o’clock a.m., from Monday through Thursday and from six o’clock p.m. Friday to six o’clock a.m. Monday, the towing company shall be entitled to an overtime charge of $15,” the bill stated.

If the vehicle is in the process of being hooked up or is hooked up to the tow truck and the owner appears on the scene, the towing company “shall unhook the vehicle and shall not charge any fee to the owner of the vehicle,” the bill added.

In an earlier interview, DFEMS Commissioner Clyde K. Norita said they have a contract with Renbat Co. Inc. for towing services.

Norita said they announced an invitation to bid, and Renbat was the only one who responded.

The fire-lane regulations provide that the fees collected from the violations “shall be deposited in a Fire Lane Revolving Fund.”