By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer
West Jefferson government officials are working on a policy that sets parameters for when the village tows private vehicles.
The policy is in response to complaints from residents whose cars were towed to make streets easier to clear during recent heavy snows. Residents said they were not notified before their cars were towed and were charged hefty fines for overtime parking and towing fees.
Mayor Darlene Steele and Police Chief Terry Ward said the law does not require the village to notify residents before towing, however they said they will consider adding notification as they develop the new policy.
Steve Cilli, one of the residents who complained at village council’s Feb. 17 meeting, attended the March 3 meeting to say he is still frustrated by the situation.
“I find it unacceptable that the mayor was on sick leave and the police chief was on vacation when all this happened,” he said. “I consider that premeditated.”
Steele explained that her surgery had been scheduled for a couple of months and that Ward’s vacation had been talked about since before Christmas.
Council President Ron Garver asked Cilli to put the past behind him and work with the village as they go forward with a solution to the problem.
Steele said she felt sorry for how the people were affected by the towing.
“I felt it was necessary to do the towing,” she said, “but I felt bad the way the people were treated.”
The towing occurred a week after a heavy snowfall.
“I feel people had time to dig their vehicles out after the snow,” Steele said, adding that some of the vehicles had flat tires, dead batteries or no batteries at all. Vehicle owners were cited for leaving their cars parked for more than 24 hours.
Steele said vehicles left on the street after the snowfall hampered the snow plows in their efforts to clear the streets.
She said she hopes to have a draft of the new towing policy by the next council meeting on March 17.