Auburn City Council

Auburn residents will get the chance to share their thoughts on a proposed increase in towing fees in the city after unanimous consent was denied for the ordinance at Tuesday night's meeting. 

The ordinance was denied unanimous consent by Ward 8 Councilman Tommy Dawson. 

"I would like to hear more from the citizens of Auburn on this before we up and just pass this tonight," said Dawson. 

The Council will consider the ordinance again at its meeting on Oct. 19. 

The proposed ordinance would increase the maximum allowed towing fee from $100 to $150 that private companies charge for vehicles improperly parked on private property. The maximum fee for wheel locking would also be increased from $50 to $75. The fee schedule for towing from city of Auburn property would not change. 

"The towing that the City would do if you were illegally parked on a sidewalk or what have you is in a different category and that falls in a different fee structure. It would be a lower fee."

Towing fees were last updated in 2008. An increase in towing fees "seems reasonable" based on the amount of time that has elapsed since the last increase as well as towing fee structures used by other cities, according to a memo included in City Council meeting materials. 

The city of Tuscaloosa has a maximum $160 towing fee and $60 per day wheel locking fee. Auburn University's towing and wheel locking fees are $150.

The proposed ordinance would not change that vehicle storage time fee, which currently calls for no charge for the first 24 hours following the tow and $10 per day after that. 

Also at Tuesday night's meeting, the Council approved a two-year contract with the Lee County Humane Society that will provide the shelter with $170,585 in Fiscal Year 2022 for animal sheltering services. The amount for FY 2023 will be negotiated at a later date based on the City's pro rata share of animals submitted to the shelter, according to meeting materials. 

The agenda item was pulled from the consent agenda to be considered as a standalone item by Ward 2 Councilman Kelley Griswold. 

"I have no problem at all voting to approve this existing contact, but I would ask that the next time the Council gets together with staff to discuss outside agency funding, I'd like us to consider increasing our per-animal funding contribution toward the contract," said Griswold, who voted to approve the item.

City Manager Megan McGowen Crouch said some ideas on outside agency funding will be brought to the Council in the spring.

The City provided LCHS $209,000 in funding for FY 2021. The decease in funding is due to donations, said Catrina Cook, director of Environmental Services, who handles all communications with LCHS.

"Our government contracts are also based on donations," Cook said. "Government contracts (with the cities of Auburn and Opelika) take up about 45 percent of their budget and 55 percent of their budget is funded by way of donations and support they receive as a nonprofit agency."

Auburn Mayor Ron Anders said LCHS does a "wonderful job" finding homes for animals in the Auburn area. 

"Certainly, if it wasn't for the Lee County Humane Society, this would be the business that the city would be in, so they provide a great service," he said.

The City Council also approved a contract for $24,100 with Foresite Group to design pickleball courts for the Yarbrough Tennis Center, although no decision has been made on whether the courts will be covered or uncovered. 

"I'm very excited about pickleball courts. We certainly understand the phenomenon that is pickleball in our community," said Anders.

The question of whether to cover the courts will be made in consultation with a new pickleball group in Auburn, as well as other considerations such as cost effectiveness, said Crouch. 

"We have mixed feedback from that group about their interest in it being covered, so it's something we're going to vet through in the design process and look at all options at this time," she said.

During City Council communications, Griswold provided an update on the expenses the city has incurred in attorney's fees for the lawsuit brought against the city and fellow Council members by Councilman Steven Dixon, who is seeking relief from the city's short-term rental ordinance, which prohibits short-term rentals on properties zoned Neighborhood Conservation. Dixon, whose residence on Green Street falls in an NC zone, has rented out his basement as a short-term rental for years. 

As of Aug. 31, the City has paid $18,931.91 in attorney's fees, according to Griswold.

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