Directors to create ‘bone yard’ for abandoned or impounded vehicles

Vehicles that need to be impounded, particularly old RVs, are becoming a headache for the Sunshine Coast RCMP, prompting them to turn to local governments for help.

“Tow trucks do not want to tow them because it costs them more to dispose of it than they could ever get by salvaging and so they are refusing to tow,” RCMP Staff Sgt. Poppy Hallam told Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors at Thursday’s policing committee.

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Hallam asked the SCRD directors if they could find a place to hold the vehicles temporarily. “I need a bone yard, or some willingness to fund,” she said, adding that about six vehicles per year would need to be kept for a period of at least 90 days.

Examples of problem vehicles included uninsured RVs with stolen licence plates that aren’t roadworthy, or when people prohibited from driving are behind the wheel of a vehicle. If the owner can’t be identified or has no fixed address, among other reasons, the vehicles must be impounded, but impounding worthless vehicles doesn’t make financial sense for towing companies, said Hallam. “The RCMP will pay for the tow from the side of the road to somewhere, but where is that somewhere when the person is homeless?” she told Coast Reporter in a follow up call. “It’s a Coast-wide issue.”

The RCMP doesn’t have an impound lot to store vehicles.

Directors voted unanimously for interim CAO Mark Brown to find a short-term solution and to explore long-term options for the storage and disposal of abandoned vehicles.

Directors also raised the issue of where to put unwanted vehicles during that afternoon’s transportation committee.

“In our area we have what I called abandoned vehicles. [They’re] on the side of the road, public parking areas and on public lands” said Area A Leonard Lee. “How the heck do we address that issue?”

West Howe Sound director Mark Hiltz asked if it was true that citizens could contact the RCMP and pay for a tow if a vehicle is on a public right-of-way.

Hallam said a violation is usually required and the vehicle has to be uninsured and impeding traffic. But the Ministry of Transportation (MOTI) and its contractor, Capilano Highway Services, can’t tow either because it’s not in their budget, in part to prevent people from abandoning their vehicles with the expectation that someone else could clean up the mess, said Don Legault, transportation ministry operations manager.

Usually MOTI goes through the RCMP to find out who the owner is, but Hallam said that doesn’t always work, because off-Coast owners aren’t always in the position to claim their property.  That happened with a vehicle left at Trout Lake recently, forcing the RCMP to pay for the tow. “It’s not good, but sometimes it has to happen because we get so many calls on it,” said Hallam.

At least one person has found another creative solution, according to Hallam, who said the RCMP received a call about a vehicle for sale. “Somebody put a For Sale sign on a vehicle on the side of the highway and put our phone number on the For Sale sign.”

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