City begins towing junk vehicles under program

The city’s Inoperable Vehicle Abatement Program goes into effect today, offering to tow non-working vehicles from private property and giving the vehicle owners the scrap metal value.

The program is designed to help residents who can’t afford having an inoperable vehicle towed from their property to comply with a new city ordinance.

That ordinance, approved in September, allows the city’s code enforcement officer, Fred Barnett, to ticket and fine property owners with inoperable vehicles on their property within the city limits.

Fines may be up to $250 per vehicle for the first violation, with penalties increasing with more violations, according to the ordinance.

An estimated 300 abandoned vehicles are located on about 150 properties throughout Columbus, said Mary Ferdon, executive director of administration and community development.

Under the ordinance, Barnett has the authority to go onto private property within the city and tag an inoperable vehicle, city officials said.

Some owners of rental properties had protested the ordinance, saying the ordinance’s language would create problems for landlords who might not know when a tenant is violating the city ordinance by having an inoperable vehicle on site.

The property owner is the one fined for violations, according to the ordinance.

The vehicle abatement program allows vehicle owners to avoid the tagging, fines or other consequences by presenting proof of ownership and title, and signing a waiver that allows the city to pay the towing fee for the vehicle, said Robin S. Hilber, city community development programs coordinator.

People who have vehicles tagged have the opportunity to appeal any fines by appearing before the city’s Board of Works, the ordinance states.

The city has already piloted the program with two vehicle owners, successfully towing the vehicles and then giving the owners about $200 each in scrap metal value, Hilber said.

For more information

For more information about the City of Columbus Inoperable Vehicle Abatement Program, call the city’s Community Development department at 812-376-2520.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.