City Government and Local Government and Government & Economic Development and Government and Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

City expected to award towing contract to California firm

May 23, 2013
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AutoReturn has been the towing contractor for the city of San Francisco since 2004. (Chris Stewart/San Francisco Chronicle)

Indianapolis will choose a San Francisco-based company to oversee city-ordered towing under a contract expected to be authorized Thursday afternoon.

AutoReturn is in line for a five-year contract for towing management services, pending approval by the Board of Code Enforcement.

The city issued a request for proposals in December that requested $1.5 million in annual guaranteed revenue, Department of Code Enforcement spokesman Adam Baker said. The money would come from fees collected from people whose cars are towed after accidents, abandonment or illegal parking.

Baker couldn't say how much AutoReturn would collect under the contract, which would take effect July 1. AutoReturn will subcontract with local towers that can adopt the company's GPS-based technology, Baker said. Tow trucks will be dispatched based on their proximity to a scene, rather than assigned zones, as under the current system, he said.

The goal of using AutoReturn is to streamline services so police spend less time waiting to clear accident scenes and citizens don't have to visit the City-County Building downtown to pay fees before picking up their cars, Baker said. Citizens will be able to use AutoReturn's online service to locate their cars and pay fees before picking them up, he said.

City records show Brian Burdick of the law firm Barnes & Thornburg LLP lobbied on behalf of AutoReturn in 2012 and 2013. Mayor Greg Ballard's chief of staff, Ryan Vaughn, is a former Barnes & Thornburg attorney.

The city currently contracts with three towing companies: Wheeler's, Last Chance and Hannah's. Responses to the city's RFP won't be made public until Department of Code Enforcement Director Rick Powers signs a new contract, Baker said.

According to its website, AutoReturn has municipal towing contracts in San Francisco, San Diego and Baltimore County, Md. 

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