City OKs towing contract for vehicle abatement program

The city has approved a towing contract tied to an abatement program designed to remove inoperable vehicles from private properties around Columbus.

The Columbus Board of Works approved the contract Tuesday for the city’s inoperable vehicle abatement program, which will begin next month. The contract will be given to six towing companies the Columbus Police Department uses on a rotation schedule to see if they are interested in participating, said Fred Barnett, code enforcement officer with the city.

Under the program, the city will cover the $65 cost of towing a vehicle when an individual presents proof of ownership, a clear title and signs a waiver. The program will allow owners to receive the full metal value of the scrapped vehicle, said Mary Ferdon, executive director of community development and administration.

“The goal is to get these (vehicles) removed,” Ferdon said.

Ferdon, who anticipates the program will begin in mid-October, said the city plans to work with different neighborhood groups to help educate them about the abatement program. City leaders approved changes to an ordinance Sept. 5 that gave Barnett authority to investigate complaints of abandoned vehicles on private property and to issue fines.

Penalties for violating the ordinance call for a fine up to $250 per vehicle for the first violation, with penalties gradually increasing with more violations. People who are cited have the opportunity to appeal the fine before the city’s Board of Works, according to the ordinance.

Barnett told the Board of Works that there are 300-plus abandoned vehicles at more than 150 locations in Columbus. Robin Hilber, community development programs coordinator for the city, stressed that the purpose is to help clean up the city.

“Our goal is not to fine people,” she said.

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com