CSI: Arlington County

Thursday, August 31, 2006

County Board Allows Disparate Treatment of North and South Arlington Residents

In addition to allowing an out-of-town towing company to book outrageous profits based on mileage towed, it appears that Arlington County also forces those north of Route to pay towing fees that are 72 percent higher than fees for those south of Route 50.

According to contracts reviewed by CSI: Arlington County, owners of cars towed by Al's Towing of Falls Church are required to pay at least $72 to recover their vehicles. In contrast, A-1 Towing is required to charge a minimum of $41.70 per vehicle towed by its company. Under the terms of the contracts with Arlington County, Al's Towing is responsible for towing north of Route 50, while A-1 Towing is responsible for towing south of Route 50. The result is that identical parking violations mere feet apart can result in drastically different fines. In addition to giving a competitive advantage to a non-local company, the contract terms also threaten to pit residents of North and South Arlington against each other.

While the 72 percent difference between the minimum allowable fees charged by both towing companies may seem large, the difference between actual sums pocketed by each towing company is even larger. Each minimum towing fee is comprised of two individual charges: a towing charge (to compensate the towing company) and an administrative fee (eventually collected by Arlington County). This arrangement gives Arlington County officials the freedom to claim that the county does not give money to seedy towing companies.

Of the $72 fee charged by Al's towing, $36 is for the "towing charge" and $36 is for an "administrative fee." In contrast, the minimum A-1 Towing fee of $41.70 is comprised of a $10.80 towing charge and a $30.90 administrative fee. Thus, the allowable towing charge of $36 for Al's Towing is three times higher than that for A-1 Towing.

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