By Amy Fendley
Whistler Towing would have ceased to be, had it not have been for the helping hands of the Resort Municipality of Whistler. But now the very hands that rocked this local company’s cradle since infancy have been wretched away.
Whistler Towing was initially formed specifically to service Whistler’s bylaw department. Five years ago Jim Watts, then a BC Transit driver, responded to a newspaper ad placed by the RMOW calling for a tow truck driver. Today Watts is the owner of Whistler Towing, a local company which has been fulfilling a contract with the RMOW.
But after five years, the contract is up and Payless Auto Towing, a North Vancouver company, is taking over the job. For the municipality, looking for new sources of funds as development winds down, it became a choice between greater revenues from an out-of-town company or supporting a local company.
Sandra Smith, supervisor of bylaw enforcement, says a tender call was released in local newspapers and packages were sent to several towing companies in Whistler, Squamish and greater Vancouver.
"Payless has been here for a number of years, and previously held the municipal contract before Whistler Towing," says Smith. "We held tender, and got two, and they (Payless) were the best tender."
Subsequently, Whistler Towing has eliminated four of its five driver positions, one full-time administrative position and Watts says he will not be recalling any seasonal workers. Whistler Towing plans to continue operating for private businesses, on a reduced scale.
"At this point we’re looking for a new yard to relocate in," said Watts. "We have a fair amount of retail and auto club business. We work for the various strata groups around the valley, we usually get a lot of work from the mountains and we will still assist with MVA’s for the RCMP."
But Watts is still miffed about the municipality’s decision.
"I wouldn’t have been in the towing business if muni hadn’t wanted someone local," said Watts. "The only consideration has been pricing. If there were considerations other than pricing, I’ve never heard of them."
The RMOW wants a share of revenue, to collect rent from the municipal impound yard. Their anticipated revenue for the new 35-month contract is approximately $70,000. Those funds will be set aside to provide funding for construction of a new tow yard.
Payless Auto Towing is merely living up to its name, being the lowest bidder of the two towing companies, willing to pay higher yard rent, and is two to four dollars cheaper per tow.
"The municipality is trying to make sure they get the best deal possible," said Watts. "In the initial proposal (submitted to the municipality), we were offering a high quality of service. Costs were trivial."
Whistler Towing had been budgeting for new uniforms and considering replacing their two-year-old tow-trucks with new equipment. But that won’t happen now.
Watts claims that during the proposal process, he was never consulted regarding a renewed contract, but rather phoned by the municipality and asked a few questions which left him "in the dark" as to what was going on.
"We had questions in our drafted proposal," said Watts. "And we had hoped to sit down to figure out what they wanted. How many trucks were needed, how much money to spend on training... many things should have been negotiable, but we were never consulted. We were scuttled through the whole process."
Payless Towing has signed a three year contract with an option for a two year renewal. They began Dec. 1, on-call and ready with chalk.