HAMMOND │ Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.’s veto of an increase in city towing fees was the hot topic at Monday’s Hammond City Council meeting.
The council voted earlier this month to raise administrative fees from $20 to $40 for vehicles that have been towed in the city.
In a letter to council members last week, McDermott said the increase in towing fees wasn’t warranted because of the county's recent adoption of a local income option tax affecting all Hammond wage earners.
McDermott also said the fund where the fees would be deposited has plenty of money available and is a nonreverting account, which means money cannot be taken out and used elsewhere.
McDermott did not attend Monday's council meeting.
Councilman Robert Markovich, D-at large, questioned what Councilwoman Janet Venecz was proposing when she sponsored the ordinance and what the intent of the law department was when it was written.
“Usually when something comes out of the law department, the mayor is already in favor of something like this,” he said. “The mayor doesn’t want it, so what are we doing with it? Maybe we don’t need to increase this — the mayor says we don’t need the money in his letter.”
Markovich questioned Hammond Controller Robert Lendi about the letter, who replied that the councilman was taking the correspondence out of context.
“It doesn’t say anywhere in that letter that additional funds aren’t needed to help run government,” Lendi said. “I think it’s a gross misstatement of both the ordinance as it was proposed and the mayor’s correspondence to the council to say things of that nature.”
Venecz said that when she introduced the ordinance she thought the funds would cover the time a police officer spends on a tow and is kept off the street, which is about a half hour.
“I was mistaken,” she said.
However, Venecz said she does not believe the mayor is saying “we don’t need the money.”
“I believe he is in opposition to the fact that these dollars go to a nonreverting account,” she said. “It doesn’t go to the general fund.”
In other news, the council approved a resolution establishing public policy for diversity in city employment and appointments.
Councilman Homero “Chico” Hinojosa, D-6th, who sponsored the resolution, said the measure will help ensure appointments reflect the diversity in the city.