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Morrison considering adopting tow fee

Police chief to present proposal soon

MORRISON – Morrison is considering an administrative tow fee, which is levied to the owners of cars seized during arrests.

Such a fee has been in the news lately in Ogle County, where the county board diminished the sheriff's control over what is known there as the "administrative tow fund."

Tow fees, which are assessed in many towns, are separate from criminal penalties, including fines.

The fee is assessed when police arrange to tow cars driven by people suspected of crimes such as DUI. It is levied even when the car owner isn't the one being arrested, with some exceptions, such as when a car is stolen.

Morrison Police Chief Brian Melton is proposing a fee of $200. As with other places, that would be on top of the tow company's bill.

"This is a user fee for those we arrest," Melton said.

Morrison's proposal would be similar to those in other towns: Even if the driver is later found innocent, the tow fee would stand.

In 2011, the Ogle County Board gave Sheriff Michael Harn wide discretion over how to spend the newly created administrative tow fund. He spent it on things such as flowers for Secretaries Day, a tent at the county fair and $4,000 for management of the Sheriff's Department's Facebook page.

After Sauk Valley Media reported on the tow fund in December, a county board member called for a forensic audit of the fund. Later, the board limited the fund's expenditures to purchases of police cars, their maintenance and equipment, and fuel.

Ogle County's tow fund expenditures are now required to go through the county treasurer's office. Before, the off-budget fund had no checks and balances.

In Morrison, the tow fund would have oversight, Melton said.

"All the money would go directly into the city administration, and they would deposit it," he said. "The city will collect the fee and put the money in the police vehicle fund. The police chief won't have the checkbook."

Melton said he plans to present the fee proposal soon to the City Council.

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