Mayor proposes fees for Safe Clear program

April 21, 2011 11:15:05 AM PDT
The city of Houston is cash-strapped and in a budget crunch, so the mayor is proposing some fees be added to the Safe Clear towing program. She outlined her plan on Thursday. Mayor Annise Parker announced her plans for the program known as "Safe Clear." The towing program was started six years ago, but now there's not enough money to keep it going without serious changes.

City leaders considered charges for tows and roadside assistance. They proposed a $50 charge for a Safe Clear tow and $30 for roadside service, like a tire change. A vehicle stored for two days will be for free so you can secure the $50. The city has set aside $100,000 for seniors and low income or disabled to help them cover the cost.

"The Safe Clear program currently does about 74,000 tows a year at a cost of nearly $3.5 million," said Mayor Parker. "It's a good program. It does good work but it is an expensive program for the city."

Drivers who can't pay will have their vehicle stored for 48 hours until they can come up with the money. We spoke with several drivers about the proposed changes.

When this program began years ago during Mayor Bill White's administration, the idea was to get stalled vehicles off the road fast to avoid a backup, and avoid that long line of wrecker drivers, too. The city was doing it at no cost to the driver.

"We were just doing something that was socially acceptable for a lot of people who don't have the money. Some things just come down to that. You have to cut somewhere," said Katy resident Bill Buvinghausen.

"It shouldn't have been free in the first place because your vehicle is your responsibility and if it stalls, you're obviously not maintaining it correctly," said north Houston resident Arpita Baweja.

"Fifty dollars or $150, I'm still paying for it. Maybe it's not my fault but we all have to pay for it," said driver Atheer Hatem.

This is a proposal going to council next week. Their approval is required. If approved, the plan may be implemented as early as June.

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