April 11, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 14

Borough: Bigfoot towing plan inadequate

Haines Borough officials have deemed Bigfoot Auto Service’s bid to solve the town’s towing, impoundment and junked-car issues as inadequate.

Bigfoot, operated by resident Paul Nelson, submitted the lone bid to the borough’s request for proposals.

Manager Mark Earnest said the reason for seeking a request for proposals was to give the private sector an opportunity to resolve towing, impoundment and junked-car concerns.

The assembly voted in December to seek a private fix for junked vehicle and towing problems before making a decision on a motor vehicle registration tax. The tax would cost vehicle owners $22 every two years.

“There were material deficiencies in the proposal that we can’t fix,” Earnest said.

Negotiations between Nelson and executive assistant to the manager Darsie Culbeck ended in a stalemate when neither side would budge on two key issues. Disagreements about insurance and billing procedures kept the borough from contracting with Nelson’s company, Culbeck said.

“We started with probably 10 areas that we had to negotiate through and those were the last two that couldn’t be resolved,” Culbeck said.

According to the request for proposals, when the borough ordered a car towed, the owner would pay the fine at the police station, obtain a receipt, and then present the receipt at Bigfoot to reclaim the vehicle. Bigfoot would then bill the borough monthly for its services.

Nelson thought this procedure inefficient, and said the borough already has a bad track record of compensating him for his company’s work. “They had already done it in the past. They authorized us to remove vehicles and then refused to pay.”

Nelson also declined to get the adequate insurance for the storage yard where towed vehicles would be stored, Culbeck said.

“(Bigfoot) didn’t have insurance for the storage yard. So if your car got towed and it was in their possession and it got vandalized, they don’t have insurance for it,” he said. Nelson said insuring the lot should be the borough’s responsibility.

Nelson said negotiations were tense and he “just about stood up and walked out within five minutes.” He said he doesn’t want to argue with the borough anymore. “They don’t understand that they don’t understand.”

Culbeck said he is recommending the borough pursue fixing the vehicle problem in-house now that the private sector option has failed. “Does this now mean that the borough should buy a little tow truck and create a little impound yard and do our own towing? And should we do the motor vehicle tax to pay for it?”

Nelson scoffed at the idea of the borough stepping in, claiming it would lose money on the endeavor. “They have never done anything and broken even on it. You and I are going to end up getting a tax increase,” he said.

The results of the bid and Culbeck’s recommendation will be forwarded to the assembly’s Commerce Committee for review.