Wheel lock issue takes new step

Published 11:03 pm Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Troy City Council took steps Tuesday to explore other avenues for adding wheel locking to its business license code.

After a third attempt to establish the ordinance within the city, the council said it has hopes of finding another route to permitting a vehicle immobilization service to operate locally. This was done with a vote instructing City Attorney Dickey Calhoun to draft a letter to the Ala. Attorney General Troy King asking if there is another way to establish a local ordinance to permit private property owners to wheel lock vehicles.

This move came after local businessman Kurt Henderson, who operates a wheel locking service for many Troy apartment complexes, came before the council seeking an amendment to the business code.

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“I have a city of Troy towing license. Other businesses are not required to have specific licenses based on the types of equipment or practices they employ so long as their actions are consistent with their business category,” Henderson said. “For example, a tree service should not be called into question for providing stump grinding after they cut the tree.”

Henderson told the council his wheel-locking service is done prior to towing a vehicle, posting a 12-hour notice with the wheel lock that a vehicle could be towed if the owner does not call and have the lock removed before the time expires.

“I feel the city council should amend the current towing license to allow for wheel immobilization,” he said.

A resolution has passed through the city council for the last three years, in efforts to have the state approve an amendment to Troy’s business license code, making this process permissible.

“Twice the city council has done what we thought was at least our responsibility,” said Council President Johnny Witherington. “Ultimately, it’s up to other people to do their part on it. In 2008 and 2009 there was not enough time in the session to get it done.”

The bill drafted by the Legislative Reference Service is the same bill that has come before the council for the last three years. Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said the bill was written by the LRS and not by city officials.

The bill was sent to the Pike County Commission for approval Monday because Lunsford said the bill has countywide application.

But, after that bill was not voted on by commissioners Monday, it had no further chance of going before the state legislature this year.

While council members said the city has done its part, Henderson and family said they weren’t convinced.

Henderson’s daughter Mary Anne Davis said in 2008 after the bill met its required newspaper advertising period, it took 27 days before Rep. Alan Boothe received a copy of the bill. Again, in 2009, she said the time period was 93 days and only delivered after her father picked it up himself.

“We’ve waited 27 days, 93 days and all in all, three years,” Davis said.

Before Henderson and his daughter addressed the council, some property owners who use his service spoke on his behalf.

“As a general manager of the Grove Apartments, I rely on Kurt’s services,” said Hayley Wafford. “It is within my duties to ensure all my residents have a place to park. With Kurt we can regulate this.

“How would you feel if you pulled your vehicle up to your home after a long day of school or work and had no where to park?”

Other apartment complex owners showed up to express their interest in having a wheel-locking ordinance locally, but they did not address the council because the vote to find alternate means to adopting a city ordinance had already taken place.

“We have done everything we could at this point. We want to help resolve this problem,” Witherington said.

District 2 Councilman Charles Meeks agreed.

“We support you whole-heartedly,” he said.

As the council awaits a verdict from the attorney general, Henderson said he won’t be able to operate his business.

“I feel like I’m under a microscope,” Henderson said. “Since last Wednesday, the city council fired me from my job.”

Henderson was referencing an opinion sought from the city attorney, asking him whether it was lawful for wheel locking to take place in the city without a local ordinance to do so.

“It is still my opinion and the opinion of Tracy Roberts (attorney with the league of municipalities) that there is no legal authority for this to be done in the city of Troy today,” Calhoun said. “That doesn’t mean that there are not other lawyers who may disagree with that.”