Beaumont wrecker yanked from county rotation

Beaumont wrecker yanked from county rotation

There is a big difference between a “tow” and a “recovery.”

Mario Martinez, owner of Top Gun Wrecker in Beaumont will be the first to tell you that, and he’s mystified as to why after his company was chosen to recover a vehicle that belonged to the city of Port Arthur last month his company is now off the county and DPS wrecker rotation.

“I don’t understand it,” said Martinez. “I didn’t break any laws.”

Chief Deputy Zena Stephens of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office agrees.

“He’s right, he didn’t break any laws,” Stephens said.

However, Stephens and Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick agreed to have Martinez’s company dropped from the county wrecker rotation after receiving what the county calls an excessive bill.

Top Gun won a “draw” to recover a 2003 white Ford Crown Victoria that was involved in a one-car accident Saturday, Jan. 7, on Highway 73 past Englin Road.

According to Martinez, a Department of Public Safety trooper responded to the accident. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt as a member of the Port Arthur Fire Department was driving back to Port Arthur from a training session in Houston. As is customary, Martinez said three wrecker companies, including his, responded to the call for service, and the trooper draws a chip out of a hat to determine which company gets the job.

“It’s like going to the casino,” Martinez said.

After winning the draw, according to Martinez, his driver spent close to three hours at the site, using nearly all 150 feet of cable available on his truck to recover the severely damaged vehicle. Martinez pointed out that a “recovery,” which was done that day, is much more laborious and intensive than a simple tow, which generally includes pulling up behind a vehicle, hooking a couple cables to it and pulling it onto the flatbed and securing the vehicle before taking off.

After all was said and done, Martinez billed $2,950 for the work. “What it takes for everybody to do business is different,” Martinez said, “and my rates are posted.”

His rates might be posted, but the $2,950 bill to the city of Port Arthur, which was ultimately paid by the city’s insurance company, prompted the county to take action. Deputy Stephens said she and Judge Branick agreed that Top Gun’s fees were too high, and after the DPS dropped them, the county followed suit, meaning anytime a motorist is stranded in Jefferson County outside of city limits and needs to be towed – Top Gun isn’t getting a call unless they are requested by the motorist.

“We dropped them from the no-preference list, but we did not drop them completely,” Stephens said. “If someone requests them, they’ll get the call.”

Martinez has taken umbrage with the move by both the DPS and Jefferson County, saying he’s well within his rights – according to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, which oversees and regulates wrecker services – to charge what he charges.

Martinez provided a letter from TDLR Enforcement Division Investigator Sam Lynch who conducted a formal inquiry into Top Gun’s $2,950 charge to Port Arthur for the work it did pulling the car from the grass and onto the back of its truck. Included in those charges: a $950 tow fee, $750 winching fee and $1,250 for working time. Lynch said in a letter to the Beaumont DPS office that “as Jefferson County tows are unregulated, he is free to charge any rates he deems appropriate. His charges were examined, and I have determined that those charges were within his company’s posted rates.”

Lynch added in the letter, “While the charges on the surface may appear excessive, as they were within the posted rates available, there is no violation of the Occupations Code.”

Despite the letter, Stephens said Top Gun’s prices are too high to justify keeping them on the rotation list.

“Under advisement from the county judge, we’re looking into what we consider to be unreasonable charges and although as a county we can’t regulate it, we’re looking for ways so taxpayers aren’t unreasonably charged,” Stephens said.

Stephens added the county is working on a new policy for how it will select wreckers, and early discussions involve a set maximum price that area wreckers would have to agree on before being allowed on to the county’s wrecker rotation. Provided Martinez agrees to that when the policy is updated, which Stephens predicts could be in a couple weeks, his company will be allowed back on the county’s rotation list. Until then? No dice.

“He’ll have to agree to the maximum like everyone else when we update the policy, or he’ll never be on our list,” Stephens said. Meanwhile, Martinez disagrees with the county’s notion that his prices are too high.

“My question for Ms. Stephens,” Martinez asked, “what number is she looking at?”

He also didn’t appreciate the way he was informed, insisting that he should’ve been sent a letter notifying his removal.

“She just called and said I wasn’t on the list,” Martinez said.

Fred Davis can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 227, or by e-mail at fred [at] theexaminer [dot] com.

shadow

Comments

martinez

well martinez is the godfather and he is just trying to teach the rest of theese idiot in the wrecker busines ho to drive nice eqitment and pay for it instead of driving junk and geting repod he know how to write a wrecker ticket and make an innsurance adjuster eyes get big they need to pay they try to cheat all the towing co out of there money mario will hold an inshurance adjusters head on the choping block till he pays every bime he owes keep up the good work morio

On the spot bid

I agree with the individual who presented the idea of an "on-the-spot" bid.

The tow truck operators should be qualified to determine the amount it would cost to recover or tow a vehicle. The three place their bid on a closed piece of paper, give it to the commissioned peace officer, he opens the bids and awards the "contract" to the lowest bidder. He keeps the three bids secret and turns them in with his report. Later the other operators can see what the bid was and can adjust their bidding on the next recovery/tow so that they are more competitive.

At $2950 for three hours work, it does appear very excessive, and even people who accuse other of being on "government assistance" should be able to see that.

My Experience With Top Gun

I would like to let people know how Top Gun Wrecker Service took care of my family in our time of need. Their service is impeccable.

The driver was very courteous and helpful. This company went the extra mile for me and charged a fair price.

I recommend this company to anyone who is looking for a fair price and professional company.

Just like their company slogan " Service is our Mission"

This is true with Top Gun Wrecker Service

The TDLR simply is stating he

The TDLR simply is stating he did not break a state regulation. What they do not tell you is that TDLR does not actively control what rates a company posts. That means that a wrecker company can post whatever rate they wish with the state and as long as it is posted, they can charge it. What about common sense here?? So the company admits that they spent "almost" three hours working to recover the vehicle and charged $2950. I am not sure who else you know that makes $1k per hour. This is the problem today - people taking advantage of insurance companies/government assistance and then when someone tries to stop it people complain. If the judge or Stephens have family in the business so be it as long as they do not charge $1k/hour to tow my car when it gets wrecked outside of the city limits. This happens on a daily basis and it somebody finally charged the wrong person so hopefully now there will be some controls put in place.

Do you know the difference

Do you know the difference between a tow and a recover? Apparently not. Before you start posting information that you know nothing about. Do your homework and then make an educated statement.

You must be on "government assistance".....

The difference between a tow

The difference between a tow and recovery are a few letters arranged in different orders. Sure you are doing more work but let's not pretend that "towing" and "recovery" are vastly different things. You are proving my point as you are obviously a tow driver. Just because you are "recovering" a vehicle versus towing it you think you are entitled to charge 10X the amount per hour that you work. The problem is that this guy charged $2950 for the job when several other tow companies would have "recovered" the vehicle for much less. You want to make it right?? Instead of pulling a chip out of the hat - have each driver that is standing there bid on the job. I bet somebody would have been happy to "recover" the vehicle for much less than $2950. Educate me some more on how tow drivers are scamming customers please so we can all learn the right things to ask our representatives for to get this stuff stopped.

Jefferson County Corruption

This article goes to show that Jefferson County is Corrupt. Who and what law gives a county judge and deputy the right to make this decision? Esp. when no laws are broken. Does the judge or the deputy have family in the towing business?
If an enforcement division investigator cleared him, then the county judge and deputy are wrong.
When the article states that they "are looking into it", I bet that they are not.

Corrupt? How so? He didn't

Corrupt? How so? He didn't get in any trouble. They investigated and he charged his posted rate so they paid the bill. They judged that he was charging too much compared to other companies so they decided to not use his service anymore.

He can charge as much as he wants. The county can also decide to be good stewards of our tax dollars and ensure that they are paying competitive prices for the services they receive.

It would be corrupt if they continued to pay inflated rates(compared to other companies). I wish this happened MORE in government.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.