EAST CHICAGO | A Chesterton family says potholes and Lake County towing fees took too big bite out of one son's wallet recently, reflecting the plight of countless region residents whose tires, axles, windshields and other car parts have been damaged due to potholes along Cline Avenue.
"My son blew two tires on the entrance ramp to Cline Avenue through no fault of his own," Jim Kozy, of Chesterton, said last week.
"The tow company charged him $250 to tow it a few miles plus $50 dollars for storage that day and then $50 the next day, even though it hadn't been there 24 hours. He lost a day's work getting it released. He lost about $830 over the potholes. My son can afford it, but not everybody has that kind of money. That's not right," Kozy said.
Police said that was just one of many cars disabled by broken pavement two weekends ago after the rapid freezing and thawing in the wake of the polar vortex that chewed up large stretches of the state highway.
The Indiana Department of Transportation closed Cline late Jan. 11 to give road crews time to patch it and reopened the road early Jan. 13
Kozy said his son, Christopher Koziczynski, was driving to work at ArcelorMittal in the predawn hours of Jan. 13 when he and several other cars fell victim to a deeply potholed ramp that runs parallel to Cline near Chicago Avenue.
"He put his spare on the blown back tire. He jacked the front up and took the tire off and had a friend pick him up and take him to the job and he called me in Chesterton," Kozy said. "I had to round up a rim because the old one was bent and by the time I got to East Chicago, they were putting it up on the JAN's wrecker.
"I told the driver not to take it away because I had a tire to put on it. He directed me to the county officer parked behind who said the car was being towed because it was unsafe. But it was on the berm. He had the rear wheels blocked and the emergency brake on and wasn't going to roll anywhere. The officer said he can't doing anything now, the car's already up on the wrecker," Kozy said.
"I told the driver I would pay the tow bill, take it to (ArcelorMittal's) parking lot, but the driver left. The officer said I had to go to Crown Point and get a release on his own car and that will cost $75, even though they knew who the car belonged to. I told him I thought that was a little out of line."
Kozy said he was able to talk the county police officer into waiving a $75 county towing fee, but they were stuck paying the rest.
"It was an emergency situation. It should have been considered that. There should be some leniency, and everybody should get together," Kozy said.
An employee of JAN's Enterprises and Towing, of East Chicago, who declined to give his name, said the towing fees are standard as is the practice of towing disabled vehicles to their storage yard and holding them until county police provide an official release.
Koziczynski said if he had known JAN's was going to tow his car, he would have called a Chesterton towing firm to do it for a fraction of the cost. He said he has filed a complaint with the state for reimbursement.