City Council: Memphis behind on paying tow truck companies for impounding
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Between an overcrowded lot, long wait times, and tow truck drivers waiting up to several years to get fully paid for their work, the City of Memphis impound lot has reached full crisis mode.
Tow truck operators told Action News 5 they drop cars off outside the gate because there’s no more room inside the facility. And towing companies said they have reached their limit.
The number of cars at the impound lot is stunning.
The rise in car thefts in Memphis, with more than 8,500 stolen last year, is being blamed for the insane overcrowding issue. But that’s not the only problem with the operation out at the impound lot.
Shocking video from the Action News 5 drone shows viewers just how badly the cars are stacking up at the Frayser lot.
”We are bursting at the seams,” said Memphis City Council Chairman Martavius Jones. “The only foreseeable solution I can see is for us to have a second impound lot.”
Chairman Jones said it’s the responsibility of Mayor Jim Strickland’s administration to pick out a property and negotiate a purchase price.
”The council can’t initiate that, even though we clearly see a need for it,” Jones said. “The administration has to do so. It’s a partnership between the two.”
In 2018 and 2019, Memphis police data showed the impound lot processed more than 10,000 cars each year.
MPD did not provide the number of cars towed to the lot in 2020, 2021, or 2022 when that information was requested on Wednesday.
A spokesperson said the information will be provided on Thursday.
In a statement, Mayor Strickland said: “Inventory at the impound lot has increased about 25%. While we work to locate more space, we are taking measures to maximize the space we have. MPD is finalizing their comprehensive review, which includes input from interested stakeholders like the tow truck industry.”
Tow truck operators told the city council Tuesday that long wait times are a problem, and the city not paying its bills is a troublesome issue, too.
”I’m owed money from 2020 from the City of Memphis for work that we got done,” said Mike Mace of Mace Towing. “As of November, they owed me $45,300 that has not been paid. Sometimes they pay, then don’t pay the whole tow bill.”
And when Councilwoman Cheyenne Johnson asked, “How many people present are having problems being paid timely?” almost every tow truck operator in council chambers raised their hand.
They want to get paid, they said, and paid more than the current $125 per tow, a price that hasn’t changed in more than a decade.
”We’re that far behind,” said Evan Mealer with Blues City Towing. “Memphis is now, with Knoxville and Chattanooga fixing their rates, Nashville fixed them a year or two ago... nor brought them up to be more modern… we are now the lowest towing rate in the state.”
Memphis tow truck drivers are standing united in this fight, tired of being underpaid and forced to wait at an impound lot that is maxed out in Memphis.
”Apparently this wasn’t a priority for the last budget cycle,” said Chairman Jones. “But I’m hoping it will be a priority for this upcoming budget cycle in order for us to address this issue.”
More than a third of cars taken to the impound lot eventually get auctioned off, generating millions of dollars for MPD each year.
But dealers are bidding on cars sight unseen right now because it’s too chaotic to get out on the lot.
The Memphis Police Department will present its formal review of the impound lot to city council at the Jan. 24 meeting.
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