Following the police chief's recommendation, the City Council approved a two-year contract for towing services with United Towing and Titan Transportation on Tuesday. The vote was unanimous, 5-0, despite initial opposition from council members Luis Marquez and Fernando Vasquez who wanted to give outside tow companies an opportunity to make 5-minute presentations before a final vote was taken.
That request was voted down by their council colleagues, however, who preferred to follow the recommendation of Police Chief Rick Esteves.
Eight tow companies submitted bids last December to handle towing and storage services for Downey. The proposals were evaluated by the police department, which settled on Downey-based United Towing and Titan Transportation.
Other bids came from HP Tow, Long Beach Towing & Storage, Towwerks, United Motor Club, Vernola's Tow and Walt's Tow Service.
The two-year deal was set to be approved May 8 but Marquez and Vasquez asked for additional time to further review the proposals and to study the rating evaluations prepared by the police department.
On Tuesday, Marquez and Vasquez said they had visited each of the tow yards to gather more information. Marquez also claimed "there were issues" in how the bid process was handled by police department staff.
Public speakers, however, accused the two councilmen of trying to steer the contract to HP Tow, which made financial contributions to their political campaigns. Marquez and Vasquez denied the allegations.
"All I'm asking for is fair and square - do what's best for our city," said Dee Bacus, ombudsman for the Downey Chamber of Commerce. "I don't want us to turn into Bell."
United Towing and Titan Transportation already provide towing services to the city but on a month-to-month contract.
"Our intent was to make sure this was a fair process," Marquez said. "I am extremely impressed with our current towers."
The tow contract goes into effect July 1 and expires June 30, 2014.
Downey receives about $51,000 annually in tow company franchise fees.