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Two prices for a tow

Galit Rodan
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 4, 2012

Some drivers who have their cars towed could arbitrarily be faced with an extra $100 on their bill depending on which towing company a city bylaw officer calls.

Municipal enforcement may call either Age Automotive or DJ's Towing, or both, when a vehicle is in violation of city bylaws and must be moved.

During regular hours - between 6 a.m. and midnight - Age charges $150 plus GST while DJ's charges $250 plus GST. The fees were confirmed by Garth Eggenberger, owner of Age Automotive and Scott Wiseman, a driver for DJ's towing, because owner DJ Clark was out of town and unavailable for comment.

"Anything we tow to the impound whether it be for the city or not is an automatic $250 and $25 per day storage," Wiseman said.

Eggenberger said his company charges $20 per day for storage, but the towing rate goes up to $250 between midnight and 6 a.m.

A woman, who requested not to be identified, alerted Yellowknifer to the difference in rates after she and two co-workers all had their cars towed on separate occasions this past winter.

After hearing about her friends' towing bills, the woman went to retrieve her car from Age Automotive's lot expecting to pay about $300. She was surprised when her bill was considerably cheaper.

"As a taxpayer I thought ... someone should be regulating that it's fair across the board," she said Tuesday. "I thought, you know, this just isn't right."

Mayor Gord Van Tighem said the city has no authority to regulate private companies' towing fees. The city uses the two companies because they both meet the requirements of having adequate insurance and a secure compound, he said.

The city only has the authority to set ticket charges, Van Tighem said. All vehicles towed at the city's request are also ticketed. The city does not take a cut of the tow companies' revenues nor does it have a contract with the companies, Van Tighem said.

Asked whether he would be annoyed if his car were to be towed for the higher fee, Van Tighem would only say that "I try to avoid places where I might get towed from."

Photographer Pat Kane said he had no idea there was a cheaper option when his car was towed several years ago. After someone broke into his Mazda 323 he decided to take a drive to get coffee and clear his head. A bylaw officer pulled him over for not wearing his seatbelt, then found his registration was not up to date. The officer told Kane to exit his vehicle, then called DJ's towing. When he went to collect his car, "I think it was a little over $300," he said.

Though Kane acknowledged he was in the wrong, "I'd like to have known that there was an option (for towing)," he said.

Van Tighem said bylaw officers are told to alternate between the two companies, although he did not provide further detail. Eggenberger said he's been told his company is on first call for four days at a time. If no one from Age Automotive is available to respond, DJ's is called, then vice-versa for the next four days.

"I'm glad I'm on the bottom end. That's all I can say," Eggenberger said of his pricing.

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