By Moses Leos III
New language in a Kyle ordinance regulating tow-truck services could change which companies can service the city, making several wrecker service owners hopping mad.
Kyle’s current ordinance creates a rotation for wrecker services. The updated ordinance, approved on second reading at Tuesday’s council meeting, would require companies on the city’s wrecker rotation to have a storage facility within city limits.
Some businesses on the city’s current rotation are located in Buda and San Marcos. Two companies, Pete’s Wrecker and Tyler’s Wrecker, hail from Kyle.
According to Kyle City Council member Samantha Bellows, the update not only supports local business, but also provides control for citizens dealing with a vehicle related issue.
“It allows for people in those moments of crisis to have customer service by a reputable company that will work with our police department to ensure that not only are they taken care of, but it’s cleaned up properly,” Bellows said.
Council questioned whether the ordinance conflicted with any state laws.
“If there’s a conflict with state law, state law prevails, right?” Mayor Todd Webster asked from the dais.
City attorney Ken Johnson, who resigned late Tuesday night, affirmed Webster’s statement.
The 6-0 vote in favor of the ordinance caused an uproar in chambers as Richard Fitch, an owner of A&E Towing in Buda, jumped up and addressed council directly.
“It’s right here that you can’t do what you’re doing,” Fitch said, pointing to papers in his hand. “We will be filing a lawsuit.”
Kyle Police officers then surrounded the tow truck company owners and drivers, who then left the chamber.
Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett told council during the first reading that updating the ordinance was necessary. Updates include regulating the number of wreckers a company must have to be on the rotation and updating requirements for certification.
The ordinance also would update pricing regulations to avoid gouging and would force companies to register with Barnett for rotation consideration.
The wrecker operators, who spoke with the Hays Free Press outside council chambers, said they are already licensed and inspected by the state of Texas.
Norma Cisneros, who works at Pete’s, said the ordinance would help level the playing field for Kyle area wreckers. Cisneros said allowing external wrecking companies to service the city hurt her business. Seven wrecking companies make up the city’s current rotation.
She said Pete’s was forced to downsize its fleet from five vehicles to two. While Cisneros said there’s “enough money to go around,” she believes the updates will create a sense of fairness.
“Why should anyone else come into our city and take our tax money to another city?” Cisneros said. “To me, I think that’s only fair. If we don’t get to tow in no one else’s city, why should anybody else tow in Kyle?”
Kyle’s updated ordinance also prevents “sniping,” the tactic of wrecking companies setting up near an accident.
Barnett said sniping is rare, but said wreckers have arrived on scene and offered to help officers. He said they go on their way if a wrecker on rotation arrives.
The city added language prohibiting wreckers from arriving on scene unless called by a vehicle owner or police. It also prohibits solicitation at the scene of an accident.
Bellows believes the ordinance will keep towing companies from abusing drivers.
“This ordinance allows us to say no more, and if you cannot treat our citizens or visitors fairly, you are not going to be on rotation,” she said.
By Moses Leos III