Beaufort Co. looking into regulating tow truck companies

By Jaime Dailey - bio | email

BEAUFORT COUNTY, SC (WTOC) - The deadly shooting in the Edgefield neighborhood Christmas Eve shook the community. Investigators say Preston Oats shot and killed Carlos Olivera after a fight escalated over a boot Oats put on Olivera's minivan that was parked outside of his brothers home. He wanted $300 to remove it.

Now, Beaufort County's Public Safety Committee is looking into putting more regulations on tow truck companies, including capping their fees.

That isn't sitting well with some tow trucks driver such as Dan Neighbors at the Auto Care Center in Beaufort.

"The government has no business telling a business what to charge, that's not what our government is set up to do," said Neighbors.

He says putting a cap on their fees isn't the answer.

"If you regulate what a person can charge per tow, you're not taking into account that every single tow is different from every other tow. There's a difference from the vehicle upside down in the marsh and the person who got a violation, a parking violation and needs to be towed," said Neighbors.

Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner says most of the regulations in the draft are already covered under state law and that this is a civil issue not a criminal issue.

However, he does says the sheriff's office gets complaints about issues concerning private company tows and says the problems lie with disputes over the fees for those private tows like the incident in Edgefield, where the vehicle hadn't been towed away yet.

"There needs to be a fee established," said Tanner. "If it's 25, 50, or 75 or whatever, it needs to be reasonable realistic and has be something that all of the companies can live with and it needs to be fair to everyone involved and also needs to be designed that it reduces any aggravation that could be part of the encounter between the owner and the wrecker company."

Tanner says he wants to see it put into the county's business license ordinance instead of a separate ordinance.

County Councilman Jerry Stewart, who heads the Public Safety Committee this draft proposal, is just a starting point and they will be taking into consideration all of the issues raised at Monday night's meeting before they take it to the full council.

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