Debate still noisy over tow trucks

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Mayor Lore Christopher (left) talks with Jeff Asher from B.C. Towing about one of the towing company's newer tow trucks with a diesel engine that runs much quieter than older diesels. Noise has been one of the concerns expressed in the ongoing debate over allowing tow trucks to park in Keizer neighborhoods. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Mayor Lore Christopher (left) talks with Jeff Asher from B.C. Towing about one of the towing company’s newer tow trucks with a diesel engine that runs much quieter than older diesels. Noise has been one of the concerns expressed in the ongoing debate over allowing tow trucks to park in Keizer neighborhoods. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

The debate over tow trucks parking in Keizer neighborhoods heated up once again Monday.

Discussion has been ongoing in recent months and was the subject of a special hour-long public forum in front of the Keizer City Council. A city ordinance approved in 2005 makes it illegal for a vehicle more than 10,000 pounds in Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) to be parked on the street.

While some on Monday wanted to see if a compromise could be reached, others weren’t interested. Chief among them was John Blake, a Clearview Court resident who also spoke on the issue in April. Blake spoke after Ron Duncan and Jeff Asher from B.C. Towing spoke, with Duncan stating mudholes mentioned by Blake in April were caused by a Chevrolet Silverado, not a tow truck. Duncan also emphasized his driver living on Clearview was talked to.

“You need to come out and see what’s been done,” Blake said. “They’re parking in front of a flower bed. These guys have no business in this town. They can’t fix the mess they made. The truck in the picture (Duncan showed) belongs to one of his employees. I don’t know what to do about it. I just heard his lies.

“He parked on a water meter and broke it,” Blake added of Duncan’s employee. “They have absolutely no respect for nobody. You ought to throw what you’re working on in the garbage can. Those people deserve nothing.”

Blake refuted Duncan’s statement things were being cleaned up.

“I was told the hole was being fixed,” Blake said. “I’m tired of being lied to. (Duncan) just told me the same thing. They don’t deserve the right to park in town.”

Mayor Lore Christopher explained the reason for the meeting.

“What we’re deciding tonight is whether to allow (tow trucks) in the neighborhoods,” she said.

Blake had a predictable answer.

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” he said. “You don’t want people like me coming down here.”

As Blake returned to his seat, he glared at the B.C. Towing employees sitting in the back.

“Should have fixed your mess,” Blake growled.

Jeff Kelder noted problems with a tow truck in his neighborhood 10 years ago led to the 2005 ordinance.

“I was so grateful the mayor and council passed the ordinance that greatly increased the livability in my neighborhood,” Kelder said. “Now we’re back again. House values will be significantly declined when trucks are parked in front. Tow trucks harm the curb appeal of all homes in a neighborhood. Is this what we desire for Keizer neighborhoods?”

Rhonda Rich, president of the West Keizer Neighborhood Association, noted the topic was brought up at the May 8 WKNA meeting.

“The general consensus was to not allow this,” Rich said. “The question is why is the change even being considered? It seems like this is a convenience for tow truck drivers above others. The concerns that were valid in 2005 still exist, like safety.”

Rich was one of several people asking if empty lots, such as the Safeway parking lot on River Road, could be utilized.

Noise and visibility have been two frequently cited issues with tow trucks. Another impact is the Keizer Police Department’s requirement that tow trucks respond to a scene within 15 minutes of being called. Due to that, tow truck operators questioned parking tow trucks in empty lots.

“The driver would still have to drive to there,” Asher said. “I would also have to worry about the security of the truck. One thing about taking a truck home, it’s close so you don’t worry.”

Asher said diesel noise isn’t an issue with cleaner burning trucks from 2010 or newer.

“Noise was a concern back then,” Asher said. “But you can’t tell my diesel tow truck from your car.”

Christopher didn’t look or sound convinced.

“Really?” she asked somewhat incredulously.

“Really,” Asher replied. “I can bring one down.”

That was indeed arranged. After the forum, councilors and city staff went to the Keizer Civic Center parking lot and agreed newer trucks are indeed much quieter.

Duncan noted 10 of his 12 trucks have the quieter diesel engines.

Bill Dyke, one of Blake’s neighbors, noted the noise wasn’t the issue.

“First and foremost, this is a residential area,” Dyke said. “The reasoning behind the 2005 legislation is sound. You’re opening up a Pandora’s Box if you allow trucks to park on the streets. There is a vision issue with tow truck there. That is not safe. If tow trucks have that much business, you should find a place to park them.”

Liz Rumelhart from Wiltse Towing said back-up beepers are a federal law, but she wouldn’t be opposed to having a switch or pulling a fuse for night time use.

“I would request you allow us to park trucks in driveways, not on the street,” she said. “I’m trying to resolve the issues for both sides. It would resolve our issue and it also helps with visibility.”

Like Asher, Rumelhart had concerns about trucks being parked in empty lots.

“We have a lot of equipment on the trucks,” she said. “If you put the gear in toolboxes, you would extend the time of a tow (response) by 10 minutes probably. I know the weight (of a modern tow truck) seems huge, but a one-ton truck weighs 12,000 to 14,000 pounds. I could not afford to have a truck sitting in an area where it could be stripped.”

Police Chief John Teague said using the secured parking lot at the Keizer Police Department would “be a hassle” for everyone and offered a possible compromise.

“Part of what drives all of this is the 15-minute response time,” he said. “If we allow 30 minutes from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., would that solve it?”

Christopher asked for the topic to be on the agenda for the June 16 city council meeting.

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