The ordinance was to regulate nonconsent towing, or towing that occurs when a person leaves a vehicle unattended in an unauthorized parking area, through an incident management rotation list, effective in January. It would also restrict towed vehicles to be stored inside Montgomery County.
Commissioners said they will bring the item back to discussion Jan. 9.
The issue of how to best regulate tow trucks has been a source of contention since 2015, commissioners said. The current method of nonconsent towing has resulted in numerous tow trucks simultaneously responding to and congregating on incident scenes, which can cause safety issues, according to the ordinance.
The sheriff’s office would have the authority to administer and enforce these requirements. Sheriff Rand Henderson, who presented the ordinance, said his goal is to efficiently and effectively get wreckers to clear scenes, and this ordinance would be the best option for the county.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone’s business, but in order for us to move forward in our modernization of the sheriff’s office and methodologies that we use going forth, this is something that we need,” Henderson said.
However, more than a dozen tow truck representatives spoke in opposition, saying they did not feel included in the process, and the time slot of 15 minutes would be nearly impossible for them to make. They also expressed concern about being penalized for not making the time slots, as well as issues over the wording in the ordinance.
“We have officers that can’t respond to calls in 15 minutes. You expect a wrecker to make it there in 15 minutes?” Texas Towing & Recovery owner Russel Schoonover said. “I’m not going to put other people’s lives in jeopardy to make it to a call in 15 minutes.”
Charles Miller, a representative from Miller Towing & Recovery in Conroe, said he has issues with the wording of the ordinance, particularly with how it defines a light-duty, a medium-duty and a heavy-duty truck. He also said the ordinance will not solve the issue of tow truck congregation.
“Guys are still going to be racing to the scenes,” he said, “We still have the same problem.”
Others, such as Clinton Bass, a representative from Bass Towing & Recovery, said he believes the issue lies with the sheriff’s department, as wreckers often wait anywhere from 45-90 minutes on a scene until a deputy arrives, he said. He also said the county is too populated to be on a rotation schedule and suggested there should be a method to notify wreckers when there are enough tow trucks on scene.
“The problem is not the tow trucks. The problem is the Montgomery County sheriff’s department,” he said amidst applause from the tow truck representatives. “I hate to point that finger, but that’s the finger that needs to be pointed.”
Because this portion of the meeting was reserved for public comment, Henderson did not publicly respond to Bass’ statement.
Commissioners debated on how to proceed, with County Judge Mark Keough in favor of moving forward on the motion with the intent to modify it at a later date. Commissioners ultimately tabled the item and will bring it back to discussion Jan. 9 at 6 p.m., and they urged stakeholders to attend the meeting to weigh in.