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City expected to award towing contract to California firm

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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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  • $150.00 tow $20.00 daily store
    This is juat a racket set up by the Mayor, his chief of staff a former barnes & thornburg attorney. How convulted is this? another case of you rub my back and I will rub yours. Now the code cops are going into neighborhoods and hunting cars to have towed just to make money for the new towing co. Who is getting the kickback here??????
  • no out of state needed
    We have plenty of tow companies here why do we need some out of state company?
  • Domestic LLC
    AutoReturn Indiana, LLC is registered with the Secretary of State's office as a domestic LLC, not as a foreign corp doing business in Indiana. I believe this means it has Indiana principals. However, the filing does not reveal the names of any real people, nor does it list Barnes and Thornburg as the registered agent. It does list a San Francisco address. I think that before the Mayor's office signs this thing, transparency would require revealing the parties involved and whether they have been contributors to the mayor. One wonders what role Barnes and Thornburg (or its attorneys) have with this company and whether there is any connection to the people behind the parking contract, who were also represented by Barnes and Thornburg.
  • local needs to keep up
    I'm all for keeping it local too but this paragraph won me over: "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." Indy businesses need to be more high tech. As someone who unfortunately has had his car towed, I can't emphasize what a pain in the A$$ antiquated system it is to take care of it.
  • More of the same.
    What a surprise. Another day, another example of the corruption in the Mayor's office. Who got the kickbacks on this deal?
  • There goes more jobs
    What the heck!!! What happened to keeping business in Indiana?

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