Chattanooga Police Officer and Wrecker Inspector John Collins on Thursday morning brought a violation to the City Beer Board serving as the Wrecker Board. It was against Gudel’s Wrecker Service, 6403 Middle Valley Road.
Officer Collins said each month he receives a fault/no fault list from the police dispatchers regarding who is responsible for tows that have been missed on the city’s rotation call list.
After noticing a pattern of missed responses to calls from Gudel’s, Officer Collins brought it to the attention of the Wrecker Board.
The city’s code is that a wrecker permittee must have an operable and properly equipped wrecker and qualified operator on duty at all times and must promptly respond to police calls. Owner of the business, Helen Keef, admitted that three missed calls were the fault of the company. One driver was quarantined with COVID-19 limiting the company’s response and another time the night driver lost the key to the lot where wreckers are kept at night and he failed to call the owner for help.
Taking corrective action, owner Ms. Keef, has hired another night time driver who lives close to the wrecker lot to be able to respond quickly, and has made a spare key to the gate available for drivers if it is needed. She told the board that the company has been in operation 40 years and the last violation occurred over 20 years ago. Assistant City Attorney Melinda Foster said the options for penalties are limited according to the wrecker code. If it is decided that a violation took place, the only thing the board can do is remove the company from the city’s rotation list for 30 days. The business can continue to respond to other calls. There is no option to issue a warning or give a lesser penalty.
The purpose of he ordinance is clear, said Attorney Foster, which is to provide for quick clearing of roadways. Delays in the response from a wrecker ties up police, those involved in the incident and leads to traffic congestion, said Board Member Trevor Atchley. Board member Christopher Keene said that statistics show for every mile that traffic backs up, someone dies. “We have to get cars off of the Interstate,” he said. "We are obligated to apply the ordinance as it is written for the safety of people in Chattanooga," said board member Ron Smith.
After one vote failed because some of the board members felt the penalty was too harsh, a second vote of the board imposed the mandatory penalty.
There will be future discussions about adding flexibility to the ordinance, with input from the wrecker businesses in Chattanooga.