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McHenry County opts out of state towing regulations
By Charles Keeshan | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/15/2008 12:04 AM

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The McHenry County Board voted unanimously Tuesday to formally rescinded an earlier decision to place state authorities in charge of regulating and monitoring local towing companies.

The move, greeted by cheers from towing company owners and representatives, takes back a February vote that placed authority over towers operating in the county with the Illinois Commerce Commission.

That would require towing firms to register with the state, pay an annual fee, work under a new set of regulations and charge customers no more than what the ICC deemed reasonable.

The board decided to take back the measure when it learned that the regulations applied not only to "relocation" towers, who remove cars improperly parked on private property, but also "safety towing," the removal of vehicles involved in accidents or stalled along a roadway.

The move was intended to end predatory towing practices in which car owners had been required to pay exorbitant fees - in some cases in the thousands of dollars - to have their vehicles returned after a tow.

The county's decision to pull out of the ICC regulations must now be approved by the state.

Most tow company operators said they support legislation to curb predatory towers and excessive fees, but believe giving ICC authority to limit how much they could charge unfairly punishes law-abiding companies.

Not everyone was happy with the decision. Johnsburg resident Laurie Cwerenz said she fears that without state oversight, others will face situations like she did last year when a tower charged her excessively to recover her vehicle.

"I don't see why you're in such a hurry to rescind a law that is there to protect people," Cwerenz told county board members. "Predatory towing will come back to McHenry County if you don't have anything in place to stop it."