A local wrecker firm was given a letter of reprimand by the city Beer and Wrecker Board on Thursday morning. It came after a complaint was brought against Gudel’s Wrecker Service on Middle Valley Road.
On July 16, the company had been designated by the responding police, from the city’s rotation list of towing companies. The city mandates the charge of $125 for a towing fee and a $15 daily storage fee. Chattanooga also requires that a business sanctioned by the city be open during regular business hours. This case was brought to the board, not for the money, but to make them aware of people that have been taken advantage of, after experiencing a wreck, it was stated.
The customer had been charged $175 to tow the vehicle to the wrecker company and was told the storage fee would be $25. After reading the rules regulating wrecker services, she realized there had been an overcharge and called to notify the company that the car would be moved from their lot that day. Helen Keef, who answered the phone, told the caller the business closed at 3:00, although she told the board that in reality their hours of operation were from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
She also told the wrecker board that she had written the incident up as a “winch” and explained that meant the car was badly damaged and had to be hooked up more than once to load it onto the tow truck.
She said that the fee for that type of service is an additional $50 above the standard towing charge. She was familiar with towing and storage rates set by Hamilton County which are higher than the city’s, and she claimed to believe they were the same as the rates set by Chattanooga.
Chattanooga Police Officer John Collins told the board that the wrecker had been a front end collision and would not have required a winch. Board member Phillip Sallee told Ms. Keef, “if you’re in this business, you should know the law” referring to the city/county rate structures.. Mr. Keene also verbally reprimanded her for giving a false closing time. Assistant City Attorney Keith Reisman questioned her about other alleged mistakes the company has made in the past in overcharging customers.
A letter of reprimand to Gudel’s will be written by the Wrecker Board and put on file with a note that indicates that the company reimbursed the customer for the $50 overcharge.
Riverfront Nights, Southern Brewer’s Festival and Football at Ruby Falls were all issued a beer license for special events, at the session. .
Chip Baker and Karen Shostak came to the board meeting on behalf of Friends of the Festival for a permit to allow beer sales at Riverfront Nights for the evenings of Sept. 1, 8 and 15. Beer sales will be allowed from 6:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m. on each of the Saturday night events. The organization has a great deal of experience in regulating the sale of alcohol, and offers their training process to anyone in Chattanooga for a small charge. Chairman Christopher Keene urged those applying for a beer permit to take advantage of the service.
On Aug. 25, Big River Grill will sponsor the Southern Brewer’s Festival on Riverfront Parkway / Ross’ Landing. It will feature a long list of micro-breweries, five bands and various vendors beginning at 2:00 p.m. until midnight. At the front gate, scanners that read IDs will be used to determine age. Different color wristbands will be given to those under the age of 21. For security, there will be 40 police and two undercover officers throughout the crowd. One hundred percent of the proceeds will benefit “Kids on the Block” said Kelly Wilson director of marketing for Craftworks Restaurants and Breweries.
Christopher Keene thanked Friends of the Festival for managing the waterfront so that various downtown events don’t conflict and also for their contributions to the city. The Riverfront Nights series will be interrupted on August 25 to allow for the Southern Brewer’s Festival, and will resume the following weekend.
Ruby Falls, on Scenic Highway, was given a license to sell beer for the first, second and third weekends in September. Football games will be shown on large screen TVs on the patio for customers after touring the caverns, and beer will be available. In the past, the venue has hired a catering service with a beer permit to handle the sales, but now the business has decided to handle it themselves. They will ask for an ID at each sale. Hollie Baranick representing Ruby Falls, LLC told the board that it is not a big event. Last year, she said, they sold only about 300 beers over several weekends, and people lingered on the average of only about 30 minutes.
A beer license was issued to three restaurants due to a name or ownership change. Mexican restaurant La Altena II, 8644 East Brainerd Road was given a permit, as was Randy’s T Bar, 1513 E. 26th Street, and Becky’s Restaurant and Spirits, formerly Westside Grill at 2503 Westside Dr.
Tiger Market #110, 3504 Hixson Pike, and Discount Tobacco & Beer Etc., 7000 Lee Highway, Suite #200 were both given a beer license for carry-out sales.
Representatives from Mosteller’s and Doug Yates Wrecker Services came to the board meeting Thursday to ask for clarification of the rules governing the wrecker companies in the city of Chattanooga. The city has a rotation list by which different companies are called in turn to service wrecks that require towing. Individual companies are allowed to have contracts with their choice of a wrecker company in the event their services are needed. If that is the case, the companies file that information with the police department. A wrecker company also can be designated by the individual involved in a wreck but they must make a verbal request to the officer at the scene.
The procedure for calling a towing company now, is that first, the police officer tells the dispatcher who the vehicle belongs to and they look in a rolodex to see if the company has a specific wrecker service on file. If there is a question, then the dispatcher phones Officer John Collins to make a decision. This creates confusion and causes some companies on the rotation list to be skipped when it should be their turn to be called, thus causing a loss of income. Officer Collins told the board that the rolodex was older than he is and system is outdated.
Mr. Reisman told the companies present that he has set up two meetings to establish a plan that hopefully, will make all parties concerned, happy. The first one is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 23 ,at 2 p.m. at the 911 center on Amnicola Highway. He told them there will be a second meeting in order to hear from all the stakeholders. Nothing will be decided or changed at the meetings, he said. The purpose of these conferences will be to gather information and take all the in-put into consideration when setting up a new system for the city’s rotation plan. All parties were in favor of board member Ron Smith’s proposal that the plan be web-based. Mr. Keene told them that the procedure should be cleaned up in about a month.