After going to the Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen last week, the owners and employees of several towing companies united in force at February’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners to lodge the same formal complaint with county officials that they did a week prior at with the town, regarding the wrecker service rotation used to respond to traffic accidents throughout Franklin.
“Tonight we would like to bring to your attention the ongoing situation regarding how towing companies are dispatched when there is an accident throughout the county,” said Lloyd Cox, Owner of Ambassador Auto in Franklin. Cox was one of two men who addressed commissioners on behalf of the majority of towing companies operating in Franklin.
According to Cox, over the past two years the majority of towing companies in the county have experienced a substantial decrease in the amount of towing calls received from 911 dispatch within the town. Cox noted that while his business, as well as the others, have experiences a drastic decrease, Nathan’s Paint and Body has seen a significant increase in the number of calls they have received.
Commissioner Ronnie Beale, who acts as a liaison to the Sheriff's office on behalf of the Board of Commissioners, noted that since he has become aware of the situation, he has been working closely with Sheriff Holland to address the situation and to work toward preventing future complications.
Although the towing companies have attributed to the alleged problems to both county and town law enforcement officers procedures when dealing with the wrecker rotation, Sheriff Robbie Holland attended the meeting in defense of his officers. “A number of my officers are here tonight, and I did not ask a single one of them to be here,” said Holland. “They wanted to be here because they are as unhappy with the allegations against the department as I am.”
Holland informed the Board that since becoming aware of deviation from the wrecker rotation service within his department, he has implemented a new form that he is certain will lead to all officers strictly following the protocol he has in place. “In attempt to prevent this from continuing, I assure you that my department has taken all necessary action,” said Holland. “I have a form in place that not only requires each law enforcement to complete and sign as soon as the wrecker rotation is used, but their supervisor must also sign it, as well as the driver of the vehicle in the accident, and then have requested that these forms be brought to me to review.”
Sheriff Holland informed board members that he has already contacted Franklin's new police chief, David Adams, and has a meeting with him scheduled next week to inform him of the situation and plans for the two agencies to began working together to ensure the problem is corrected.
From December 4, 2010 through February 1, 2012, Nathan’s Paint and Body answered 76 calls from dispatch to report to an accident to tow away a vehicle. During the same time period, the other six towing companies in Franklin averaged 35 calls between them, a little more than half of the calls received by their competitor. “These numbers only reflect the towing calls that were issued through dispatch,” noted Cox. “It does not include calls made directly to Nathan’s by cell phone or verbal contact on the scene.”
Walter Hunter, owner of Franklin Body Shop for 42 years, also spoke to aldermen on behalf of the towing companies and stated that his discontent does not fall on Nathan’s Paint and Body as a personal conflict, but because professionally, he finds his shop losing business and feels it should be prevented.
Generally, towing services are called to accidents through 911 dispatch on a rotation basis. The procedure is in place to ensure that each wrecker on the rotation is allowed equal opportunity to offer their services to accident victims. Customarily, the only time the rotation schedule is ignored is in the event that the owner of the vehicle being towed requests a specific towing company due to preference or if officers on the scene request a specific towing company because of specific circumstances of the accident. “Each owner, of course, has regular customers who request a particular service,” said Hunter. “Those who have no preference are supposed to be referred to the next company in rotation.”
In response to the procedures that Sheriff Holland has enacted and plans to personally follow up on, Hunter noted that if the new forms are followed correctly, he expects the problem with unfair dispatch call distribution to be fixed. “If everything goes as the Sheriff says it will, we wont have a problem and more and everyone will be allowed their fair share of dispatch calls.”
Commissioner Beale agreed to continue working with Sheriff Holland to make sure the new forms are completed appropriately and plans to report back to the Board of Commissioners in six months.