City Wants to Look at Towing Policy Downtown

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COLUMBIA - In the wake of the city council meeting Monday night where parking meter rates will be discussed, the city of Columbia is also concerned about the towing policy downtown. Mayor Bob McDavid thinks parking meter violators may take advantage of the current system. Vehicles become towable after receiving four parking tickets, but not many are towed despite high fines. Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the city is considering incentives for people to pay the fines.

"We don't want to discourage downtown visitors, but we do want them to park in our new Fifth Street garage if they are going to park for extended periods of time downtown," St. Romaine said. "The problem is most people won't care enough about the meter fines until their car is actually towed, so they will continue to park there."

A fourth parking ticket includes language describing the city's tow policy and notification that if the fine is not paid within 24 hours, the vehicle will be towed. A green sticker is placed on the vehicle to signify the vehicle is towable, and the city prosecutor must approve the tow. Once the car is towed, the owner would then have to pay the city for all parking fines before receiving the car back, and also the tow company for the impound fee.

Many downtown visitors ignore the fines and current tow system.

"I know a lot of people who don't care about the fines because they are so low," Kristi Pawlowicz said. "I guess that once our cars would actually get towed, we might change our behavior."

The city has no current recommendations on a possible towing policy change, but does want stricter enforcement.