City plans to tow cars during snowfalls to aid snow removal

Monday, August 26, 2013 | 3:52 p.m. CDT; updated 2:24 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Columbia residents who park on main roads during the winter may soon need to find somewhere else to park. In an attempt to improve snow removal efforts during inclement winter weather, members of the Columbia City Council are considering a proposal to designate more streets as priority snow routes. If the forecast indicates 2 or more inches of snow, the city would enact emergency tow zones on the streets, allowing crews to clear snow more quickly.

COLUMBIA — The next time 2 or more inches of snow falls, people living along larger Columbia streets might need to remove their cars from the streets or face being towed.

The proposed new tow zones would allow crews to clear streets more quickly.

"After several bouts of significant snow last year, we started looking at better ways to clear the streets in a more expeditious manner. Any time we have vehicles parked along the sides of streets it slows things down," Columbia Public Works spokesman Steven Sapp said.

The Columbia City Council reviewed the proposal for snow routes in the city on Aug. 19 and instructed the staff to draft an ordinance with specifics.

The law would designate first- and second-priority streets as snow routes. A map of these streets is available on the city's website.

When the forecast indicates the potential for 2 or more inches of snow, Sapp said, the city will alert residents that emergency tow zones have gone into effect on snow routes.

The city plans on spending $25,000 to mark tow zones with road signs, according to a Public Works memo.

The city will also embark on an education campaign about the snow routes "before the first snowflakes fly" each fall to reach new students and residents, Sapp said.

He believes these efforts will help minimize the number of cars towed.

Information about snow routes will be available across platforms, including traditional and social media, RSS feeds and, possibly, nixle alerts, Sapp said.

People who leave cars parked along snow routes after the emergency tow zones have been activated could have their cars towed, Sapp said.  

Because the ordinance is still in the works, the city has not determined how much time drivers would have to move their cars, where the cars would be towed and whether tickets or fines would be assessed to the owners of towed vehicles. 

All that information will be included in the forthcoming communication plan, Sapp said.

The city will solicit proposals from towing companies, which will be able to charge an agreed-upon fee.

"The city does not plan to go into the towing business," Sapp said.

Jefferson City has had a similar towing program in place for years, said Britt Smith, operations division director of the Jefferson City Department of Public Works. Violators are fined $25 plus the price of towing, Smith said.

Media notifications and having officers alert vehicle owners eliminate the need for most towing.

"I've been here 10 years, and I don't remember the last time we've had to tow someone," Smith said.

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