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Fee amnesty program could help clear some of Louisville’s overcrowded tow lot

Louisville's impound lot currently holds 1,000 vehicles more than what it's designed for, according to officials.
Louisville's impound lot currently holds 1,000 vehicles more than what it's designed for, according to officials.

There may soon be more space for wrecked vehicles in the city’s over-burdened tow lot. An ordinance recently approved by Louisville Metro Council could waive fees for retrieval during certain amnesty periods.

The Louisville Metro Police Department currently runs an impound lot at 1487 Frankfort Avenue. For years, the lot has grown more and more crowded. There are currently 2,700 vehicles sitting there, even though the lot is only meant to hold a maximum of 1,700 vehicles. 

The lack of space in the lot  has led to disabled vehicles piling up on city streets and in residential neighborhoods. One abandoned car off Eastern Parkway recently became a piece of ‘street art.’

District 9 Metro Council Member Bill Hollander, a Democrat, was a sponsor of the amnesty ordinance. He said the council appropriated funds to purchase land for a new tow lot last year, but officials have been unable to find an appropriate property.

“While we are certainly moving cars out of the tow lot — we are having successful auctions at this point, we are scrapping vehicles — we continue to have cars coming in at a faster pace than we can get them out,” Hollander said. “So the idea is to have a period of time in which there could be an amnesty and fees could be waived.”

When someone goes to the city’s impound lot to pick up a vehicle, they are required to pay fees: an $85 towing fee for most vehicles and a $10 storage fee for each of the first seven days. People are charged $5 per day for each day after the first week. 

Under the ordinance, LMPD can request an amnesty period where people can pick up their vehicles for free. The period can be for any stretch of time, up to 30 days in a calendar year.

“I don’t think this is going to be the end all and be all and total solution to our inability to get cars off the street,” Hollander said. “But if this gets some cars off the street then I think it’s worth doing.”

Vehicles that were towed with a boot, graffitied or illegally dumped will not be eligible for fee amnesty. If a vehicle sat on a road collecting parking tickets before it was towed, the owner will still be responsible for paying off the tickets.

For stolen vehicles, the rightful owner will now have 21 days to pick up their car from the impound lot for free. The vehicle would start accruing fees after that time. 

Both Hollander and District 21 Metro Council Member Nicole George, a Democrat and ordinance co-sponsor, alluded to other initiatives that Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration will propose to ease overcrowding at the tow lot. They did not provide specifics.

Major Emily McKinley, with LMPD’s administrative services division, told Metro Council’s Public Safety Committee earlier this month that the department supports the amnesty ordinance. McKinley said LMPD has also been exploring other options for getting cars off the lot.

“We’ve improved our communications with insurance companies, trying to get insurance companies notice that these vehicles are on our lot and to get them out,” she said. “We got a new auctioneer contract in place in the last couple weeks. We’ve started auctioning several hundred vehicles each month through online auction.”

McKinley said LMPD is currently short-staffed on civilian tow truck operators who bring abandoned vehicles to the impound lot. She said they are currently keeping applications for driver positions open continuously, and the department plans to examine its contract with drivers to try and raise starting pay.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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