Councilman Roop collapses, dies at 44

Republican attended public hearing before suffering heart attack

`Profound sense of loss'

Lawmaker represented Arundel's 5th District

January 04, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

Cliff Roop, an Anne Arundel County councilman, collapsed outside a council meeting about 8: 30 last night and died within the hour at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.

The 44-year-old Republican, whose 5th District includes Severna Park, died of a massive heart attack, said a spokeswoman at the medical center.

In a statement released through her press office, county executive Janet S. Owens said: "It is with the deepest sadness and regret that I report the death of Councilman Cliff Roop. Cliff was a friend both in and out of politics. He cared deeply for all Anne Arundel County citizens. Everyone here is feeling a profound sense of loss."

Roop collapsed after leaving a public hearing on a bill, introduced by Council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr., that would create opportunities for any licensed towing company in the county to get work towing vehicles tagged by the Police Department.

Such work is limited to 17 companies, an arrangement that has been criticized by South County towing operator Kenny Catlett as "the old boys' network."

For 23 years, Catlett said, he has has tried to meet every requirement to become one of the towing companies called into service by county police.

When the county told him he must build a fence around his property, he built one. When he found out that his towing business required a different zoning, he obtained a variance.

Whatever he was asked to do, Catlett said, he did it.

Still, Catlett and other towing companies in the county could not join the 17 companies used by the police. They say the arrangement violates federal law and should be ended.

"It's been one of the old boys' networks," said Catlett, whose company is in Davidsonville. "It's about time that someone broke it up so everyone can compete."

Klosterman said he introduced the bill because many of the county's towing companies were not given the opportunity to become licensed and be used by police.

"It just sort of evolved that way," Klosterman said.

Under his bill, any towing business could apply for a license from the county, providing it meets certain requirements, such as having at least three trucks, being operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and having the proper insurance.

The police would divide the county into eight sections and assign a certain number of towing companies to each area.

"The bill gives police discretion to cut off the number of towers in an area," Klosterman said.

Marc Bowen, whose company is one of the 17 used by police, said he's not opposed to allowing more companies to be involved but that police should not be allowed to determine the number.

"It [the bill] is supposed to open it up for everyone," said Bowen, president of the Anne Arundel County Towers Association, "but the police can close it."

Bowen said police used towing companies 5,681 times last year and 7,600 times the year before.

On average, he said, the towing fee is $55 and the fee for each day of storage is $20.

Catlett said he realizes that being added to the Police Department's list wouldn't significantly increase the amount of work for his four trucks, but he would welcome more business.

"You're not going to get rich out of towing for the county," said Catlett, who is buying two more trucks. "But it's extra income for my business."

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