City to review tow operator licensing, fees

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WESTBROOK — After fielding two appeals in a month’s time, the City Council has agreed it is time to revisit how clean a tow truck driver’s criminal record must be to take on jobs for the city.

The council also agreed, at its meeting Feb. 4, to review the fees towing companies can charge for city jobs.

Per city ordinance, the City Council may “deny, suspend or revoke” a tow operator’s ability to respond to calls for service from city departments if the operator has been involved in motor vehicle offense within the last five years or involved in a felony offense or convicted of theft at any time. 

Most of the city calls for towing services come from the Police Department for vehicles that have been involved in accidents or criminal offenses, such as operating while under the influence. The public services department also calls for tow services if a vehicle has been left on the street and is impacting plowing operations.

At the Feb. 4 council meeting, the council heard from Anthony McGilvray of Charlie’s Towing and Charlie’s Auto Transport, who was denied a permit to tow for the city because of a 1986 theft conviction. McGilvray has worked for Charlie’s on and off for the last five years, but was recently assigned by the company to service Westbrook.

“It’s been put behind me,” he said of his conviction. “You guys should put it behind me as well and let me tow for the city.”

Westbrook Police Capt. Sean Lally said the department had no issue with McGilvray being allowed to tow for the city.

“It was 1986. That was a long time ago and he’s lived a very clean life since then, and we are all in support of this second chance for him,” he said. 

That was the second appeal within the last month. On Jan. 7, David Young, a tow truck driver for Bayside Towing and Nappi Towing came before the City Council to appeal the denial of his towing license. Young was precluded from being on the list of operators on the city’s on-call list because he was convicted of theft more than 20 years ago. 

Young, who began working for Bayside and Nappi Towing in February 2018, told the council that while he was caught shoplifting, his record has been clean since and he has settled down and raised three children, two of whom graduated from Westbrook High School.

The council had taken up a similar appeal a years ago from Joseph Nason, a driver from Nappi Towing, about his 24-year-old conviction. The council approved the appeal, but decided to not change the ordinance instead preferring to deal with such appeals on a case-by-case basis.

Now a year later, the City Council has changed its mind.

In a Jan. 31 communication to City Clerk Angela Holmes, Westbrook Police Capt. Steve Goldberg said the police department is recommending the ordinance gets amended to make those convicted of a misdemeanor theft-related or driving-related offense ineligible for five years. If convicted of a second misdemeanor in those categories, the individual would be deemed ineligible for 10 years from the conviction of the latest offense. A conviction of a felony theft or driving offense would carry with it a permanent ineligibility.

The council didn’t act on Goldberg’s recommendation, but did refer the matter to the council of the whole. 

At their Feb. 25 meeting, councilors will review the amount tow operators can charge on city-related calls. Operators now can charge vehicle owners $85 for a non-accident tow, $95 for an accident tow and $30 for vehicle storage.

A proposal, unanimously supported by the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, would bump those prices up to $100, $125 and $40, respectively. The proposed numbers would bring Westbrook’s fee structure more in line with surrounding communities.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 780-9106 or [email protected] or on Twitter @mkelleynews.

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