At Thursday night’s East Ridge City Council meeting, Councilman Larry Sewell stated that the council needs to look at the wrecker ordinance again now that the TBI investigation is done.
The TBI investigation into the alleged forging of the wrecker ordinance took more than six months. The results of the investigation were forwarded to the Hamilton County District Attorney’s office, which resulted in, well, nothing.
The issue at hand, to the best of my understanding, is that we have two different copies of our wrecker ordinance _ both signed by then-Mayor Mike Steele (who by the way was never interviewed by the TBI in this investigation) _ that say different things. One says that existing businesses (Broome’s Wrecker Service and East Ridge Auto Electric) are exempt from the clause prohibiting towing companies on the police wrecker rotation from being owned by the same person and operating out of the same building. The other city wrecker ordinance is missing this all important “grandfather clause.”
Both of Buddy Broome’s businesses, East Ridge Auto Electric and Broome’s Wrecker service, are owned by him and operate out of the same building at 4003 Ringgold Rd.
Now, call me crazy but I have a solution that is so simple, so revolutionary it’s the easiest fix of all.
First, let’s open the wrecker rotation to anyone who who has a business legally operating and paying taxes in the City of East Ridge. If we can run a three-company rotation we can run a 12-company rotation.
Second, let’s require those businesses to have operated a licensed wrecker service in the city for at least a year. We don’t want a Chattanooga company simply pulling a license to get on our rotation without actually opening a location and operating a business in East Ridge.
Third, let’s keep the one with the grandfather clause. Mr. Broome has been operating in this town for 30 years. Two separate, legitimate businesses. Who are we to tell him that’s wrong now? Let him have both and keep them both on the rotation.
Lastly, and this is the clincher, let’s mandate that wrecker services cannot charge more than the national average for a tow. With that provision the interest should all but dry up in getting what appears to be a much-coveted spot on the city’s wrecker rotation. You see, wreckers are usually allowed to charge you more (as much as three times the normal charge) when they are called by the police. If the city takes away the incentive there won’t be as many people fighting to be on that list.
Why would we want someone who has just experienced a tragedy or disaster in our city’s streets be taken advantage of by a wrecker service simply because the call came from a police officer? Is that good for East Ridge?
First of all it takes advantage of someone who may be in a spot by no fault of their own. Second, it allows the city by controlling a list of inflated prices to pick winners and losers. Third, it puts a bad taste in that person’s mouth about East Ridge.
Why else would businesses say they are only going to set up shop in East Ridge if they are put on that list? It’s because that list is a ticket to gouge. It’s lawful price gouging. When someone is in their time of need they are lawfully allowed to be taken advantage of and the City of East Ridge is a complicit partner in that hustle.
I believe these steps would handle all the issues. Let’s end the gouging. Let’s open the list. Let’s make sure people are on the list for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.