Florida Keys Weekly

April 27th, 2012
Council cracks down on towing industry

If someone is sitting in their vehicle, they cannot be towed.

The barrage of complaints to Marathon City Council members should subside a bit following passage of the first reading on some proposed ordinance clarifications Tuesday evening during their regularly scheduled meeting.

Councilwoman Ginger Snead said at the last council meeting that a woman complained of threats from Florida Keys Towing to hook up and haul off her car while she was sitting inside eating her lunch. Snead hosted a town hall meeting for Marathon’s tow truck operators to discuss proposed language changes to the existing ordinance, to which the she reported most were pretty receptive.

“I was surprised to find that they thought we were being pretty nice, that many said maybe we should be more strict with this ordinance,” she addressed the council. “It was said in the beginning that if you were operating properly, this ordinance wasn’t going to hurt you very much.”

The issue at hand has been a debate between Florida Keys Towing owner Bill Pruitt who contends his company has been given permission by the property owner to remove any vehicles illegally parked on the private property. He argued Tuesday evening that his driver never physically attempted to tow the woman and that she refused when he asked her to leave the property.

“We’re not bad people or bad apples as was said in the newspaper,” Pruitt defended. “The lady shouldn’t have been eating lunch on private property where she wasn’t supposed to be in the first place!”

Mayor Pete Worthington told Pruitt that the council had fielded multiple complaints over the past 12 months specifically related to his company.

John Whalton said that following the city’s boat ramp improvements, a reduction in the number of parking spots for vehicles and boat trailers had been reduced. Despite the city’s installation of private property signage along the perimeter of the former Quay property, regular seasonal visitors still believed they could park in the area.

“I wonder if some of the fault doesn’t lie within the city, and maybe there should be some signage that says, ‘The guys next door aren’t kidding, they’re going to tow your freakin’ car away!’” he suggested.

Tom Richards of Paradise Towing, who currently has an agreement with the management and staff of Winn Dixie to tow any unauthorized vehicles, contended that it would be too cumbersome to obtain a notarized letter to authorize a removal each time they were called.

“The constant turnover there would make it hard for us to stay constantly updated,” Richards suggested.

Attorney John Herin clarified that the agreement between a property owner and a tow company is the primary documentation requiring a notary, “…not that you need to get a notarized statement every time you’re going to do a tow.”

The ordinance amendments will come back before the council for second reading and adoption at their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, May 8.


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Blair Shiver

Weekly Newspapers staff writer Blair Shiver has had a hard time finding any fellow Bulldogs down here in Gator Country. This Georgia native moved to Marathon nearly four years ago from New York City. She specializes in reporting and covering human-interest stories throughout the Keys. Blair currently serves on the board of Independence Cay, is a Take Stock in Children mentor, Marathon Jaycee and volunteers as a Guardian ad Litem.

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