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Wednesday, 07 January 2015 00:00

Residents Support Sal’s Towing in FL; City Chooses Westway

Despite calls from residents and business owners to keep Sal’s Towing, commissioners voted 3-2 on Dec. 9 to hire Westway Towing to provide towing services in Fort Lauderdale.

Nick Berry, co-owner of Courtyard Café and Rumors, said it’s unusual “to have a whole community in favor of any towing company.”

Earlier in the year, the city advertised a bid for towing services. Westway and Sal’s were the two highest ranked firms with Westway chosen as the top respondent. Westway was chosen by a committee based on experience and qualifications, project approach and franchise fees. The committee consisted of David Archacki, emergency management/utilities director; Commander Gary Blocker, Wilton Manors Police Department, and Jim Kirchoff, Wilton Manors Police Department administrative manager.

Westway agreed to pay the city $30,500 a year for three years, $18,000 more than the current franchise fee offered by Sal’s.

Commissioner Tom Green criticized the city for picking Westway over an established and popular community partner, because “there’s more money in it.”

Residents expressed concern over previous complaints filed against Westway and the distance from the city to the company’s tow yard in Lauderdale Lakes – 4.9 miles. The distance to Sal’s Towing in Oakland Park is 1.8 miles. “The distance alone would be reason enough to keep [Sal’s],” said Kip Wargo, owner of the Manor Inn.

According to the Better Business Bureau’s website, Westway had 17 complaints filed in the last three years. Sal’s had one. Craig Goldstein, owner of Westway, said the number of complaints were small compared to the 40,000 tows he does annually.

Those who spoke also repeatedly commended Sal’s community involvement in Wilton Manors and Oakland Park. In addition to sponsoring local events, Sal’s offers “Save A Life.” For no charge, inebriated drivers can call Sal’s and have their vehicle towed home anywhere in the county. Commissioner Julie Carson said the “Save A Life Program” is important to the city, with its large number of bars, but ultimately voted in favor of the recommendation because she trusts the judgment of the selection committee.

“We weighed all of the information and, while I really wanted Sal’s, the procurement committee selected Westway,” Carson said. “It was a vote on the process. I’m not comfortable usurping the process.”

Commissioner Justin Flippen acknowledged Sal’s service to the community but said he saw no reason to go against the staff recommendation to hire Westway.

“[Sal’s contributions are] not the question before this commission,” he said.

Resident Kate Donohue said Sal’s was a “loyal friend” and “valuable asset” to the city and called for Mayor Gary Resnick to recuse himself from the vote because of a campaign donation he received from Westway.

“I also received a campaign donation from Sal’s,” responded Resnick.

According to campaign reports from the November election, Resnick received $750 from Sal’s and $500 from Westway. He also received $500 from Broward Collision, an auto body repair shop located next to Westway that was previously owned by Goldstein, and $500 from Goldstein’s wife, Gina. The donation by Broward Collision to Resnick was made two months after Goldstein sold the business.

Vice Mayor Scott Newton, who voted against giving the contract to Westway, received a $500 contribution from Sal’s. He said he treats all parties equally, no matter who gives to his campaign.

“It doesn’t get my vote by any means.”

All campaign donations to Resnick and Newton, by Sal’s and Westway, were made before the selection committee made its recommendation on Sept. 9.

Newton also called for the city to throw out the responses from Sal’s and Westway and start the process over because of a mistake.

“Whoever made the bid had no idea what they were doing,” Newton said.

The mistake entailed the city required bidders to have an immobilization license; something the county does not require for tow truck companies to operate.

Resnick said the mistake was not big enough to warrant a new process.

“It’s not a flaw, it’s a technical defect. To some extent, it didn’t matter.”

Although unhappy with the decision, Newton said he will be satisfied with Westway and support them if they do a good job.

“If they don’t I’ll be on them like stink on you know what.”


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