CSI: Arlington County

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Arlington County Gives Sweetheart Deal to Out-of-Town Towing Company

The notion of a towing company stealing your car, taking advantage of you, and not even buying you breakfast in the morning is nothing new. What's not new is the notion of county officials signing off on the scam. Based on information obtained by CSI: Arlington County, it appears that Arlington County officials knowingly entered into a lucrative, sweetheart deal with a towing company located more than five miles outside of Arlington County.

According to Arlington County towing contracts reviewed by CSI: Arlington County, county officials knowingly allowed out-of-town towing companies to charge "mileage costs" nine times higher than the current cost of gasoline. The current county contract with Al's Towing of Falls Church allows the towing company to charge up to $3 per mile traveled in addition to the $72 fee necessary to recover a towed vehicle. Al's Towing is located more than five miles outside of the westernmost boundary of Arlington County.

In addition to Al's Towing, which covers north Arlington, A-1 Towing of Arlington is under contract with the county for towing services in south Arlington. But unlike Al's Towing, which is allowed by the county to charge $72 to recover a towed vehicle and $3 per mile in mileage costs, A-1 Towing is required to charge a much lower fee of $41.70 per towed vehicle and $2 per mile in mileage costs. An Arlington County website with information on towing charges both misidentifies the regions covered by each towing company and neglects to inform residents of the additional mileage charges.

At this point it is not known why Arlington County officials elected to give such a lucrative towing contract to a non-Arlington company. Also unknown is the reasoning behind the decision to force county residents to subsidize travel to a location outside of the county. Although gas prices are hovering at an historically high level of approximately $3 per gallon, an additional mileage surcharge of $3 per mile appears to be excessive. Based on estimated gas mileage of 10 miles per gallon, the towing company's fuel costs are likely in the neighborhood of $0.30 per mile. The allowable charge of $3 per mile allows Al's Towing to pocket a profit of roughly 900 percent per mile under the terms of its contract with Arlington County.

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