The Minneapolis City Council approved a new batch of towing contracts Friday, adding language aimed at keeping private towers in line during chaotic snow emergencies.
The new contracts come nearly six months after the Star Tribune reported that towing was not being enforced equally throughout the city, illustrated by zero towed cars in upscale southwest Minneapolis during one particular snow emergency. At the time, the city and one of its towing companies, Rapid Recovery, accused each other of being at fault.
The city never fully investigated what caused the problems between the contractor and city field supervisors, public works officials said. Rapid Recovery was awarded the same territory in the new round of contracts, which are open to competitive bids.
“I’m not sure that we’ll ever come to the exact bottom line of the root problem,” said Jon Wertjes, the city’s director of traffic and parking services. “But I think globally we could all agree that there was maybe [a lack of knowledge], miscommunication among both parties, that would suggest we can both do it better.”
The contracts, which can be renewed until 2020, now contain more explicit language specifying that contractors must follow the direction of city staff. It also specifies the city can require the contractors to use its towing software, allowing staff to more easily see whether the companies have deployed enough trucks.
“There didn’t need to be a ton of contract language change, as much as our understanding the authority we have and exercising it,” said Mike Kennedy, the city’s transportation maintenance director.
The city expects to pay the five bidding towing companies a combined $2 million annually. The two prime contracts for year-round towing went to Wrecker Services and Rapid Recovery. The other contractors only work during snow emergencies and street sweeping.
The contracts were last opened in 2008. Since then, Rapid Recovery has decreased their price slightly per tow, to $58.94, while Wrecker Services has raised it nearly $5 to $44.65.