That money is being paid through a good faith concession from Mechanics Plus, the towing company that removed 26 vehicles from the township during the Jan. 3 snow emergency, Fosselman explained, although the township will be cutting the checks.
Mechanics Plus wants to continue working with the township in the future, Fosselman said, and therefore is willing to refund some of the money it charged that night, but it doesn't want to deal directly with the township residents whose cars were towed.
"Mechanics Plus dealt with the residents the night the cars were towed, they dealt with the residents when the cars were picked up, now the owner wants to be done with the residents," Fosselman said.
Commissioner Jim Lanscek said that he didn't think the township should be involved with the refund process. "It looks bad that we are accepting money and getting it back to the people," he said.
Commissioner Brian Higgins told Lancsek he "completely disagreed" and said that in his opinion the board's involvement with the refund process would be a positive step.
"It shows we are responding to citizens who came to us with a problem," Higgins said, referring to the group of residents who came to the board's Jan. 6 meeting to express their concerns about the fees charged by Mechanics Plus. "As local government officials, we should have a better handle on who is charging what on our behalf."
In summarizing his investigation into the Jan. 3 snow emergency, Fosselman stressed two key points -- the township did nothing wrong and in this mind the fees charged by Mechanics Plus seemed higher than normal because they included both a towing charge and a winching charge.He also reported the following to the commissioners:
- Proper snow emergency signs exist in the streets where vehicles were towed in Clearview Manor and Shepherd Hills.
- Township staff declared the snow emergency by 3 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 2., giving residents nine hours to move their cars. That snow emergency was announced via TV, radio, Facebook, Twitter, email and on the township's website.
- PA state law does not set a limit on fees that may be charged by a towing company but the township can enact an ordinance setting the price for towing services, which will be addressed by the Public Works Committee level in the future.
- Township staff hopes to continue working on snow emergency procedures, including setting up meetings with the Public Works committee and Mechanics Plus and establishing additional notification procedures to let drivers know when a snow emergency is called. "I always think we can learn something," Fosselman said.