Dundalk firm's towing license is suspended

March 22, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Despite requests from Baltimore County police to take away a Dundalk towing company's license for repeated overcharging, the Board of Appeals decided to suspend the license for six months.

William T. Hackett, chairman of the three-member board, dissented. In the decision Friday, Mr. Hackett said Alva Hoopengardner should lose his county towing license because he "probably overcharges a great number of customers."

Mr. Hoopengardner is president of Al's Service Center Inc. in the 7800 block of Wise Ave., Dundalk. Testimony before the board showed that only 14 overcharging complaints were lodged with county police in 1993 for all 33 county licensed towers. Half were against Al's.

Maj. William A. Kelly recommended late last year that the county not renew the license for Al's. The county Department of Permits and Licenses agreed, allowing the license to expire Jan. 4.

Mr. Hoopengardner appealed.

The overcharges ranged from $8 to $261 -- all refunded to people who complained to police about their treatment.

Many of the complaints involved use of a more expensive "rollback" tow truck for their vehicles when a standard tow truck could have done the job. The rollback trucks winch disabled vehicles onto a platform bed and cost $93 a tow. The older hook and chain method of towing a vehicle costs $57 a tow.

The $261 refund involved a young woman whose car broke down on Eastern Boulevard in late May and was towed to Al's. The car then was towed several times back and forth between Al's and Koon's Chevy-Geo dealership in the 6000 block of Belair Road during a round-robin argument over towing and storage bills that lasted for days.

In a Board of Appeals hearing, Mr. Hoopengardner argued that he refunded money to people the police found he had overcharged. However, even the two board members who voted for the six-month suspension said his manner about the overcharges was "cavalier."

"The seven reported overcharges are just the tip of the iceberg . . . ," Mr. Hackett wrote. "It is the opinion of this member that no businessman who has presented a legitimate bill for towing would automatically refund the money merely because the customer asked for a refund."

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