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By JASON DUNOVANT

In an effort to speed up the process of removing vehicles blocking the roadways due to wrecks or arrests, the Rocky Mount Town Council approved the creation of a towing advisory board at its Aug. 12 meeting.

The five-member board would advise the town on the appropriate action to take regarding towing services. One of the main concerns discussed at the Aug. 12 meeting was how towing operators would be contacted by town police officers in the event of a wreck, arrest or incapacity of the owner.

Owners of vehicles are given the opportunity to choose a towing operator, but when the owner is unable, police are provided with an official rotation of towing operators to call. Towing operators are rotated on the list so no preference is given to any one towing operator.

Matthew Hankins, assistant town manager, said towing operators are currently given 20 minutes to arrive after they are called by police. If they don’t arrive, the next towing operator is called.

Police were forced to wait 45 minutes for a tow truck at a recent incident where a vehicle was blocking the roadway, leading some council members to ask Rocky Mount Chief of Police Ken Criner exactly how well the current system is working.

“How’s it working now? It’s not,” Criner said.

Part of the problem, according to several towing operators in attendance at the Aug. 12 meeting, is a recent change to the town’s requirements to be part of the rotation. In the new requirements, the towing business has to be located in the town and rates charged for services must be public. The change reduced the number of towing operators on the list from six to only two currently.

Several of the towing operators in attendance criticized the town’s current rules and asked to return back to the old rotation. Hankins said the new board would be given the authority to decide which businesses should be included on the rotation once it is formed.

Council members voted 5-2 to approve the advisory board with Mark Newbill and Billie Stockton voting against. The council also asked that the issue be addressed again in 90 days to see if the current issues have been resolved.

An upgrade to security at several town properties was also approved by council. Some of the buildings receiving upgrades will be the Public Works Department, Wastewater Treatment Plant and the town’s administration building. Hankins said the upgrades were discussed following the May 31 shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach.

The total cost of the upgrade was estimated between $71,500 and $85,000 and included security cameras and automatic fences that could open using a keycard. Hankins estimated the upgrades would be completed within 90 days after approval.

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