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Snowstorm Tows, Fees Stir Up Squall Among Lower Mac Residents

Lower Macungie Township residents shared their distress about having their cars towed last week during a snow emergency through the Patch Facebook page and at Monday's Board of Commissioners' meeting.

A receipt for the bill Robin Sattouf-Smith, who lives in Clearview Manor, paid to Mechanics Plus to get her car back after it was towed last week, during a snow emergency in Lower Macungie Township.
A receipt for the bill Robin Sattouf-Smith, who lives in Clearview Manor, paid to Mechanics Plus to get her car back after it was towed last week, during a snow emergency in Lower Macungie Township.
The first major snowfall to hit the Lehigh Valley in 2014 touched off a storm of another sort in Lower Macungie Township in the form of a tempest among distressed township residents whose cars were towed from various snow emergency routes throughout the township Friday night into Saturday. 

Many of those residents showed up at Monday night’s Lower Macungie Township Board of Commissioners’ meeting to voice their displeasure with the costly confiscation of their vehicles last weekend.

One of those residents – Deron Hockman – shared his concerns about the tow at the BOC meeting and through a private message on the Lower Macungie Patch Facebook page. Hockman, who lives in the Shepherd Hills town houses, says it cost him $400 to get his car back from Mechanics Plus, Upper Milford Township.

“They targeted our area because of complaints,” Hockman writes on Facebook. “Every road in our development is a snow emergency, so Lower Macungie wanted us to park our cars a mile away at the rec center.” 

However, Hockman explains, the only way for someone to know that the snow emergency parking restrictions had been implemented was to go on the township website, be on the township email list or visit the township Facebook page.

They don't have the capability of robo calls,” Hockman says, adding that the next morning when he went by the rec center, it appeared that no one had parked there.

They towed over 20 cars in our neighborhood and over 40 in the township,” Hockman writes, which is what motivated him to express his concerns with the situation at Monday’s commissioners meeting.

Robin Sattouf-Smith, who lives in Clearview Manor, contacted Lower Macungie Patch through a private Facebook message to share her experience with having her car towed during the storm and to complain about the excessive $399 fee she paid to get her car back.

Sattouf-Smith says she and her husband returned home around midnight Thursday along with their 2-year-old. Her husband's truck was able to handle the incline to their home with no problem, Sattouf-Smith explains, but her vehicle could not make it up the street no matter what they tried. Left with no choice, she writes, her husband parked her car on the main road of the development where many others were parked.

The next morning, Sattouf-Smith says, her car was gone and when she contacted the township, she was given the number of the towing company. “I called and they told me the fees and I almost dropped to the floor!! I asked what I was supposed to do if my car would not go up my street to my driveway and they claim I should have stood outside and called a tow truck to come tow us up the road 50 feet to my driveway. Seriously?! It was midnight!"

Sattouf-Smith plans to take up a grievance with the township. “They [the township] say they have no say in what they charge but seriously hire a company that you make a contract with that's not going to totally rob your residents. All that money right after Christmas killed me! But I didn't have a choice,” she writes.

Hockman is pleased to report that the commissioners listened to what he and his Lower Macungie neighbors had to say, assigning the matter to one of the BOC subcommittees for further exploration. 

“I am glad they would listen so we can get to a solution,” Hockman says. “I told them they need to put a parking lot at the bottom of Eagle Street at the park to take care of this problem.”

Vic January 09, 2014 at 08:25 AM
I have to say after I read this on tows and the housing developement has no are in or by them to park their vehicles and they have snow emergency routes on their roads is wrong.First and foremost why was,nt that road taken care of in the first place?Who ever is cintracted to plow and salt them should have done those road before it got that bad so the people who live there can get to their driveways,Also the towing companies charge is way out of hand,I believe the people who did have their vehicles towed and the BOC don,t do anything to make it right for the residents I believe the residents need to Hire an Attorney.
Ruby Warner January 09, 2014 at 08:43 AM
I must say, I'm outraged at reading this. $400 is pure robbery for a tow and overnight storage. This company knows they have these customers by the foot as they have to pay the charge to get their car back or they will be charged more in storage fees to leave it there longer. I've had my vehicle towed a few times from work to home when my car broke down. It was towed 5 miles and it cost $50! 8 TIMES THAT COST TO HAVE THESE PEOPLE'S CAR TOWED? Highway robbery-pure and simple. Shame on this tow company and shame on the township for contracting with a company that will take advantage of the township's residents this way. I would love to see the residents who were forced to pay these astronomical fees get together and contact an attorney.
Rico January 09, 2014 at 08:49 AM
Vic is that English? Wow. We live on a snow emergency route, during any snowstorms, even an inch, we make sure our cars are off the road. No worries no issues. Ignorance does not make it alright to park in these areas and not pay the consequences.
careless fills January 09, 2014 at 09:01 AM
Is there a sign on the streets? Was there snow? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, you have no argument. If the answer to either (or both) of these questions is no, then you have a valid complaint.
car nut January 09, 2014 at 10:01 AM
All this complaining about having your cars towed and being ripped off is ridiculous. Tow truck companies have high costs in their operation, and are entitled to fair profit. At least one of the people who had their car towed, and paid the fee, admitted it was his responsibility. The other comment the lady made about not calling a tow truck company because it was midnight was a poor excuse. Perhaps you never realized, tow truck companies are available 24 hours a day. Take responsibility, pay your fee, and be ready for the next snowstorm.
MS January 09, 2014 at 05:47 PM
I see a lawsuit. And it's only right. This is highway robbery and it's not right
Janet Persing January 12, 2014 at 03:30 PM
A lawsuit is right? For a snow emergency declared all over media, TV, internet, township website...what do you think other municipalities do? Don't have the Weather Channel on your TV? Snow emergency activation as a public service has been going on for decades. If you choose to leave your car in the towing area, hopefully this will change your mind. But I doubt the people who are complaining will learn from their $400 lesson.

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