Cash only practice not preferable
During their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night at the Marathon Government Center, the Marathon City Council directed staff to tighten regulations on towing companies operating within city limits.
Prompted by an email to the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce, Vice Mayor Dick Ramsay brought the issue forth on behalf of a “typical citizen” who felt they’d been improperly treated.
Not signage was in place to warn against parking on the private property adjacent to the public boat ramp. Though the problem has since been corrected by city staff, he criticized the practice of a local towing company demanding $202 in cash up front for return of their vehicle.
“Tow trucks are just staked out across the street,” Ramsay reported, calling the practice, “a terrible operation.”
“These tow companies can request cash and cash only,” he continued. “Unless you have cash on site, you’re going to get charged for towing and storage.”
The email to the Chamber pondered how many tourists visiting the Middle Keys would have that much cash on their person, warning, “Marathon is going to leave an extremely bad taste in people’s mouths, and they’ll think twice before visiting here ever again if they get towed and can’t get their car back.”
Ramsay is pushing for inclusion of language drawn from an ordinance on the books in Key West mandating tow truck operators also accept travelers’ checks and credit cards.
“I think there should be an alternate way of paying,” agreed Mayor Ginger Snead, who admitted that upon first reading the email thought the whole transaction was a scam. “However, the issue goes deeper than that. Our ramps are not equipped to handle the traffic they’re seeing.”
The former Howard Johnson property directly across the street from the Quay boat ramp as well as the city-owned 104th Street property or even the proposed future site of the Marathon’s Public Works department on Aviation have been tossed around as additional parking areas for boat trailer storage.
Councilman Mike Cinque suggested installation of automatic parking gates to collect parking fees.
“We’re a small town that’s land poor,” Cinque noted. “Those are something that could be removed if the property use changes.”
“Our objective is to bring them into compliance to parking in the right spot,” said Councilman Richard Keating via telephone. Keating was absent from the dais due to recent surgery.
Attorney John Herin said that state regulations regarding tow truck operators are minimal and allow municipalities to tighten regulations should they see fit.
Ramsay’s also pushing for inclusion of an amendment to the current ordinance that says tow companies operating on the city tow rotation list shall afford owners a reasonable time to secure an acceptable method of payment and must have written policy in place regarding accepting credit or debit cards on site at all times.
In other business:
• Past council candidate Allen Pedersen called county mayor pro-tem David Rice’s appearance at the city council meeting two weeks ago “a scare tactic to keep Key West from losing some commercial airline service to Marathon.”
Two weeks ago, Rice told the Marathon City Council that federal funding had already been used to recruit Delta into Marathon five years ago. Unless the city can guarantee a revenue stream, Rice cautioned, beleaguered airlines weren’t looking to add new stops along their routes.
“For the last five years, I’ve been examining those potential services and have yet to identify a way to make it work,” Rice told the council.
Pedersen called the two-part straw poll question slated for January’s ballot asking Marathon residents whether or not they wanted commercial air service and if they’d be willing to support it “bogus” and “dirty politics.”
“I’ve never heard of someone in Key West having to pay for an airline,” Pederson addressed the council.
Cinque challenged Pedersen to bring forth an airline that would be willing to set up shop at the Marathon airport, and “We’ll see what we need to do to get it done.”