Wheel lock proposal on hold

Published 9:13 pm Monday, March 22, 2010

Any hopes of passing a local wheel-locking legislation were put on hold Monday after the item was stricken from the Pike County Commission’s agenda.

Commissioners were presented a proposal to support a local resolution that if approved, would give private property owners in the city of Troy the authority to immobilize unwanted vehicles. This was a resolution passed already by the Troy City Council.

But, with little information and likely not enough time to make it through the state Legislature before session’s end, the commission decided not to give the item a vote.

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“This issue has been going on since 2008 and the county commission’s never been contacted before this time,” said District 1 Commissioner Homer Wright. “The way I see it, even though we do have districts in the city, I don’t like the idea because the first I heard about it was in the newspaper.”

County Attorney Allen Jones said the city of Troy was unaware the last two years it would have to pass the bill through the county. Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, told Jones Monday the state Legislative Reference Service said the local act would have to come through Pike County before meeting state approval.

This was referencing a similar bill that passed in Lee County, giving Auburn property owners a right to immobilize vehicles.

Still commissioners were not convinced they knew enough about the bill to give it an OK.

“They (the city) havn’t contacted anybody on this government body,” said Commission Chairman Jimmy Barron. “This shouldn’t be thrown in our laps like this.”

The commissioners were in agreement that with only 10 days left in this Legislative session, it would be unlikely that bringing the issue to a vote in their next meeting would give the bill enough time to pass both the House and Senate.

“I would recommend since there’s not enough time to get it through the Legislature, we just not worry about it,” said District 6 Commissioner Oren Fannin.

Other commissioners said regardless of time, the bill would not have met their approval if it would have come to a vote.

“I wouldn’t support it anyway,” said District 5 Commissioner Charlie Harris. “I have a lot of constituents at apartments…I wouldn’t put that on my constituents anyways.”

This service has been performed in Troy for the last several years often by a local man hired by apartment owners wanting to keep parking spaces available to residents. But the opinion of the city of Troy’s attorney Dickey Calhoun was this was being done illegally, as there is no local ordinance, state law or city business license that permits vehicle immobilization.

Jones said the bill not passing through the commission Monday will kill any chances of it becoming authorized at least for this year.

Troy Police Chief Anthony Everage said if the department receives a complaint of a vehicle being wheel locked, that incident will be addressed on a case by case basis.

“If we receive a complaint a vehicle has been wheel locked we will come a do a police report,” Everage said.

What is done with the report after would be up to the individual filing the complaint.

Becky Fowee, municipal court administrator, said residents can bring police reports to the city court and fill out a deposition in order to obtain a warrant.

“They have to provide the information on the person they are signing a warrant on and write down what happened. They have to sign in front of us, swearing in front of us,” Fowee said.

Fowee said she couldn’t be certain exactly what charges would be filed if a warrant were issued on a person for wheel locking a vehicle, but it would likely be criminal tampering in the second degree, a Class B misdemeanor.

According to the Alabama Criminal Code of Law, criminal tampering in the second degree is when a person “intentionally tampers with the property of another” and causes “substantial inconvenience.”

A Class B misdemeanor is punishable for no more than six months in jail, the code reads.

“That’s probably what it would be. We would have to look at a case and see what’s in it,” Fowee said.

In other business, the commission approved to advertise for bids on steel pilings to repair a bridge over Bowden Mill Creek on County Road 4423. This is pending funding approval from FEMA, which County Engineer Russell Oliver said could be forthcoming.

The commission tabled once again a proposal presented by Oliver to use county jail inmates for road work labor pending more information on insurance liability.

The commission also met with Extension Agent Tammy Powell, expressing its thanks to the long-time extension office worker set to retire April 1. “It has been a joy to work with these young people,” Powell said, after she encouraged commissioners to set aside funding in its next year’s budget to assist with the 4-H program.

Ken Weathers, with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, sought help from the commission in mowing around Pike County Lake, after cuts in state funds have left that lake without a manager. The commission agreed to consider this request in another meeting.

after exploring its options.