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Towing company owners on Thursday let the Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board know that if the city sets a maximum tow fee it should do so with input from them.

Fifteen wrecker owners or operators came to the board's bimonthly meeting Thursday morning to explain costs associated with towing on private property.

"You might go hook up to a man's car, bend down and be careful because you'll have a gun pulled on you," said Les Cantrell, owner of S&H Towing.

During the board's Feb. 18 meeting, members tasked city attorney Ken Fritz with writing an ordinance to send to the City Council that would set maximum towing fees.

Mr. Fritz has reviewed ordinances from Knoxville and Nashville, among other cities, that set a base rate of $75 to $85 for a tow with additional fees for specialized services such as the use of a winch or other equipment.

Board members repeatedly remarked that the purpose of recommending a maximum fee was to find a reasonable rate to prevent price gouging of consumers. Now there is no limit to what can be charged for a towing on private property.

"You say the fee is reasonable, but our concern is the fact that there is no set fee," said board member Kathy Jones, pointing to complaints that fees range from $125 to $250, with some instances of $400 charges.

Chattanooga police Officer John Collins, who works on alcohol compliance for the city, recommended board members include additional fees in the maximum set sum to keep a uniform fee.

"Chattanooga has some of the highest tow rates in the Southeast right now at $125," the officer said of the set rate for towing on city property.

Mr. Cantrell worried that reducing the tow fee could endanger his business.

Ms. Jones reassured wrecker owners that the board would find a balance to recommend to the City Council.

"I don't think we're trying to cut anybody off at the knees, we're just trying to find a happy medium where to allow the average Joe Citizen to afford to get their car back," she said.

The board will consider recommendations for procedure and fee regulation to the City Council in its next meeting on March 18.

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