Calling it a “fiscal decision,” Metro officials are planning to privatize operations of its vehicle impound lot, currently managed by the Metro Nashville Police Department, to an outside company.
“We were looking for a business model that made better economic sense,” Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling told The City Paper, “and one that would sort of relieve the police of the day-to-day burden of running the operations.”
According to Riebeling, Metro’s impound vehicle lot has accumulated a $2.9 million deficit over the last eight-plus years. He said privatizing would help “cut into” that figure. The impound’s 20 civilian employees would be affected, with plans to find them existing positions within the civilian area of the police department.
“It’s a fiscal decision,” Riebeling said, adding that Metro police Chief Steve Anderson is fine with the move.
The city’s vehicle impound –– located at 1201 Freightliner Drive, near Lebanon Pike –– stores all police-confiscated and impounded vehicles. The police department’s impound division is tasked with safeguarding such vehicles until they are disposed.
Mayor Karl Dean’s administration has drafted a council ordinance that would hand services to Mokena, Ill.-based United Road Towing Inc., a company Metro Purchasing has already awarded a contract.
United Road Towing already has a small Nashville presence, operating the West Nashville Wrecker Service on Centennial Boulevard.
The bill, sponsored by the council’s Budget and Finance Committee chair Sean McGuire and the council’s Public Safety Committee chair Bo Mitchell, is set to go before the council on the first of three votes Nov. 1.
McGuire said he sponsored the ordinance to direct the proposal to the council’s legislative process. He said he would reserve judgment until the legislation enters the council’s committee system.
“I need to really study it,” McGuire said.
Riebeling said the administration started discussing outsourcing the city’s impound well before Dean’s recent re-election victory.
“We think it’s time to move forward on this,” he said. “It’s a service that is not really the core business of the police department. ... This a private party that does this in other communities, and seemingly does it pretty successfully.”
If the council were to authorize the move, Riebeling said United Road Towing would deliver the city a $500,000 up-front payment. Moving forward, he said the company would pay Metro $100,000 each year for the life of the contract.
Riebeling said the plan is to transfer the impound’s current Metro workers to existing positions within the police department.
Asked how that could change their salaries, Riebeling said: “The plan is for it to be a lateral move. That would be the goal. Everyone would go over to a lateral position, comparable pay and benefits.”