Wichita Falls city councilors approved a sole source contract between Wichita Falls and Jody Wade Enterprises and Collins Motor Company for the towing and impound services required by the city.
A 6-1 vote, with Councilor Tim Ingle objecting, approved a sole-source method for receiving and maintaining Wichita Falls Police Department vehicle inventory. The deal eliminates the wrecker rotation list.
Several people, including other towing and wrecker company operators, voiced concerns over the proposal. Their main concern was the elimination of the rotation list. They said they were under the impression the list would be reduced to wrecking services, with Wade taking over impounding.
Wichita Falls residents still have the option to call the towing company of their choice in an accident. If a person involved in an accident has no preference, Wade’s company will be called by default.
Ricky Cantu of Cantu towing and Al Palmatary of Al’s Automotive presented a joint proposal to the city, as well. Wichita Falls Police Chief Manuel Borrego said Wade just made a good offer.
The offer includes exclusive towing rights for the city, as well as complimentary towing and roadside assistance for city vehicles. The impound lot will be accessible 24 hours a day.
Before acceptance of the proposal, patrol officers had to spend their time waiting on wreckers at the impound, and those with vehicles at the impound were only able to access their vehicles during regular business hours.
“This will save the chief an extraordinary amount of time. After 5 p.m. a police officer has to open the impound yard on every impound, and they have to wait on that wrecker to unload that vehicle. If someone needs to get their vehicle, it takes a police officer down there. We’re talking about saving numerous amount of police resources for the city,” Wade said.
While Palmatary, Cantu and others recognized the city’s needs and realized Wade presented a good offer, they did not understand why wrecking services were not continued on a rotation cycle. They argued it wouldn’t cost the city any money and would provide them with a continuous source of income.
“It cuts our business income in half. Half of our income was from the city rotation contract. We were moved down here for AAA Texas, which is a roadside assistance company,” Cantu said. “We only had 25 days to bid, and I got it a week late. This is a million dollar deal. ... We knew it was going to cost us a lot of money to be able to play this game.”
Borrego noted that if neither proposal received met the requirements the city was looking for, neither would have been accepted, saying he wants the best for both the city and its residents.
“If it didn’t meet our goals as a city or department ... and make sure our evidence vehicles were secured, certainly we would have to have readjusted our thoughts and plans. Our impound was in a critical position of overcrowding. We had so much overflow of vehicles we didn’t know where to put them,” Borrego said.
The city impound averaged 144 vehicles each month in 2012, while its maximum capacity is 118.
“We want the city and the citizens to know that this proposal was done for the best interest of the citizens, and they’ll have 24-hour access to their vehicle that’s either impounded or involved in an accident,” Wade said.
Wade’s five-year rent-free lease of over 18,000 square feet at 3101 Armory Road, formerly Bonham Elementary, also includes vehicle space for 50 evidence impounds, vehicle space for 30 seizure impounds, a $25,000 move-in allowance, space for at least 250 impounded vehicles and vehicle auction services.
Cantu suggested a better solution would have been to get a company contracted for storage. He and Palmatary said they are not sure of their businesses’ futures.
“We employ about four employees, and it’s going to have to be a decision we sit back and watch whether we’re going to stay in Wichita Falls and keep doing business. I know we will definitely lose one employee. There’s not enough business for four (employees),” Cantu said.
Cantu said he could do private property impounds, but it’s not a business he wants to involve himself with.
“It’s not a business where people are happy to see you or come get their cars. It’s just a bad business. Sure, it’s necessary, but this is a small community, and I think ... it soon grabs you a bad name as a company,” Cantu said.
The other companies felt misled and felt the request for proposals was vague in its specifications. Borrego said the offer was basically to see what would be offered. Wade previously submitted what Borrego called a “skeletal proposal” to the city which was denied.
Palmatary believes the deal was done under the table and preset.
“What do you think they’re doing when they set up a whole facility that nobody knows anything about? Then the contract is exactly what (the facility) was,” Palmatary said.
Cantu and Palmatary said they requested a copy of the original proposal submitted by Wade in November but were denied a copy.
Borrego said he knew they needed to send out a formal request and see what other options were available to the department.