Metro eyes privatization of vehicle impound lot to cut deficit

Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 10:23pm

Calling it a “fiscal decision,” Metro officials are planning to privatize operations of its vehicle impound lot, currently managed by the Metro Nashville Police Department, to an outside company.

“We were looking for a business model that made better economic sense,” Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling told The City Paper, “and one that would sort of relieve the police of the day-to-day burden of running the operations.”

According to Riebeling, Metro’s impound vehicle lot has accumulated a $2.9 million deficit over the last eight-plus years. He said privatizing would help “cut into” that figure. The impound’s 20 civilian employees would be affected, with plans to find them existing positions within the civilian area of the police department.

“It’s a fiscal decision,” Riebeling said, adding that Metro police Chief Steve Anderson is fine with the move.

The city’s vehicle impound –– located at 1201 Freightliner Drive, near Lebanon Pike –– stores all police-confiscated and impounded vehicles. The police department’s impound division is tasked with safeguarding such vehicles until they are disposed.

Mayor Karl Dean’s administration has drafted a council ordinance that would hand services to Mokena, Ill.-based United Road Towing Inc., a company Metro Purchasing has already awarded a contract.

United Road Towing already has a small Nashville presence, operating the West Nashville Wrecker Service on Centennial Boulevard.

The bill, sponsored by the council’s Budget and Finance Committee chair Sean McGuire and the council’s Public Safety Committee chair Bo Mitchell, is set to go before the council on the first of three votes Nov. 1.

McGuire said he sponsored the ordinance to direct the proposal to the council’s legislative process. He said he would reserve judgment until the legislation enters the council’s committee system.

“I need to really study it,” McGuire said.

Riebeling said the administration started discussing outsourcing the city’s impound well before Dean’s recent re-election victory.

“We think it’s time to move forward on this,” he said. “It’s a service that is not really the core business of the police department. ... This a private party that does this in other communities, and seemingly does it pretty successfully.”

If the council were to authorize the move, Riebeling said United Road Towing would deliver the city a $500,000 up-front payment. Moving forward, he said the company would pay Metro $100,000 each year for the life of the contract.

Riebeling said the plan is to transfer the impound’s current Metro workers to existing positions within the police department.

Asked how that could change their salaries, Riebeling said: “The plan is for it to be a lateral move. That would be the goal. Everyone would go over to a lateral position, comparable pay and benefits.”

13 Comments on this post:

By: Community-carl-... on 10/28/11 at 5:34

Hmmmmmmmmm.........Sounds like another load of B.S. from the Dean administration.

If Metro has accumulated over a 2.9 million dollar deficit while similar operations in other cities operate successfully, it is simply a management problem. If the Metro Impound Lot is such a loser and money pit, why would United Road Towing or anyone else be interested in taking it over? ....And the plan to "make places" for the 20 displaced employees? If they haven't been needed elsewhere before now,
why create what would appear to be unneeded positions elsewhere at continued taxpayer expense?

This whole issue smacks of under table dealing and poor stewardship of public funds. One thing you can be sure of is that if you follow the money trail, you will most likely find cronies of Dean and/or Riebeling at the end of it.

By: govskeptic on 10/28/11 at 7:11

Having had one experience with that lot told me a lot about Dept.
It appeared to be manned by a large number of the most
incompetent, uneducated, and sloppiest dressed group of
supposedly Police Officers I've seen in a long while. I concluded
it must be where they send the officers they don't want the public
to be dealing with! Twice in a row now we are confronted by
Finance Directors that have apparently gone to the "Bernie Maddoff
School of Creative Financing".

Community-Carl has it exactly right This Mayor wants all the tax
dollars going to privately selected projects. Next will be the
privatizing of the Garbage collection, Animal shelter, and the
Meter Maids. If it doesn't fit the Belle Meade idea of public service
sell or privatize it! So disgusting!!!!

By: Charlie Sommers. on 10/28/11 at 7:38

I must agree with Community-carl- If the lot is so unprofitable why would anyone want to buy it? If it can be run in the black by a for profit entity then why can't Metro do the same thing? Sounds like nothing but poor management to me!

By: tenn.Big Dog on 10/28/11 at 7:55

Tenn. Big Dog******** I smell another RAT... Thu United Towing Service is in here larger than just West Nashville Wrecker Service...They also own A.B. Collier, as well as Bailey's--- so I am told. Those are the three largest metro governed towing companies.. WATCH OUT FOLKS, AS WHEN THEY TAKE OVER, YOUR TOWING BILLS COULD GO CRAZY. MONOPOLIES AS WE ALL KNOW CHARGE WHAT THEY WANT. There is a Wrecker board, but will it stay since the city will be out of the picture? The Board is appointed by the Mayor so if he is letting some private company take over and they agree to give Metro $100,000 per year no questions asked, WATCH OUT..

By: left on 10/28/11 at 7:59

This is a way for the city to try to save money before they hit the citizens with a property tax for the upcoming new fiscal year. Metro's budget needs money, and lot of it,to cover the over run on the convention center,the wasted money on all of these paid surveys to see what Nashville needs. They need a mayor that was born and raised from here,not a carpetbagger!

By: tenn.Big Dog on 10/28/11 at 8:01

Tenn. Big Dog----The Police department has strict proceedures for how evidence and confiscated vehicles are handled.. A lot of vehicles are sold every year with the funds going to the Drug fund to fight crime. If the vehicles are not handled in a certain lawful way, that might end. HAS THE LEGAL DEPARTMENT RESEARCHED THIS? WITH THIS MAYOR IT IS ALL ABOUT THE QUICK DOLLAR.

By: judyboodo@yahoo.com on 10/28/11 at 8:38

This is the kind of thing that Dean has done for 4 years. Why the asleep populace reelected him is a testament to not paying attention. This is the kind of abuse that the Occupy Wall Street group is demonstrating against. The administration can't even manage a tow in lot how are they going to manage another company when it comes to maintaining evidence? If I were McGuire and Mitchell I wouldn't want my name anywhere close to this stinker of a bill. And if you want to see what will happen to the employees, just look at what happened to the former sanitation workers. We've already privatized that. 2.9 million dollars lost on Dean and Riebelings watch, where is the accountability. Where is the money! I guess the Fairgrounds lost it.

By: macjedi on 10/28/11 at 8:58

More outsourcing of what should be solid government jobs. I want a law against the outsourcing of ANYTHING by local governments. Contractors for NES payments, those redlight cameras in these po-dunk towns around Nashville, etc... if you cannot roll your own and create jobs, you do not DESERVE to have these features and services in your "city"...

By: dartow on 10/28/11 at 11:41

This just smells like bribes, kickbacks and politics as usual. Where there's smoke there's fire. After being in the towing industry around Nashville for along time, I know first hand how corrupt the systems, the cops and the impound yard really are.

Mark my words, if your car, truck or commercial vehicle are towed by these corrupt people it will cost you hundreds if not thousands to get it back. Just bend over cuz here it comes.

Back to basics & common sense!!!

By: ACitizen on 10/28/11 at 1:46

A Citizen
Hey, all you pukes that want smaller government, this is it!
You can't have it both ways: "Solid government jobs," "a law against outsourcing," and smaller government.

By: stickman56 on 10/28/11 at 4:08

The move is also afoot to privatize fleet management,you won't find out until it's a done deal.

By: smiless on 11/9/11 at 1:36

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By: ccheeves on 11/10/11 at 10:06

United Road Towing does not own or in anyway have anything to do with A.B.Collier, A.B.Collier is owned by David Dunn a local man from Nashville. He purchased the company a couple of years ago after managing it for the trust of the deceased owner. His actually reason for going through with the purchase was because when the business was for sale United Road Towing wanted to purchase it & all 13 employees here were going to lose their jobs. Baily's is owned by Mike Martin & has nothing to do with URT. West Nashville is the only towing company owned by URT in Nashville. If URT has it's way about it they will take over all tows for the city & 15 other Metro Zone Wrecker will be out of business. With URT nothing matters but numbers. In the agreement with URT & Metro , URT agrees to give Metro an intial payment od $500,00.00 - most likey not even enough to cover the1st year salaries of the 29 employees that jobs will be created for. Then URT gets a monthly payment from Metro of $31,250 and pays metro a monthly payment of $39,583.33 for a difference of $8,333.33 per month that will actually be Metro's payment, $99,999.96 per year to Metro. Ok we have covered those 29 salaries for the 1st year , but what happens the 2nd year? Metro gets $99,999.96 but pays over $500,000.00 to employees that were placed in latteral positions within Metro. Here at A.B.Collier we smell at rat & we alongwith every other Metro Zone Wrecker are planning on fighting this at every angle. Where is the money going from the impound lot? Both Memphis & Knoxville charge less for tows and their impound lots are profitable for the city. Metro will also not let our attorney see the records for the impound lot& this is susposed to be public record.