County considers agency for abandoned vehicle problem

Colusa County officials are toying with the idea of forming a new government agency to deal with abandoned vehicles in both the incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county. 

Community Services Director Greg Plucker pitched the idea of forming a Colusa County Abandoned Vehicle Service Authority to the Board of Supervisors late last month, along with a new tax to pay for it.

“Complaints regarding abandoned vehicles have increased rather dramatically over the last several months as a result of code compliance staff removing abandoned vehicles, many of which have been in the public right-of-way,” Plucker noted. 

The proposed agency, a Joint Powers Authority that would have to be formed by the county and cities of Williams and Colusa, would govern and direct the removal and disposal of vehicles that have been abandoned on public roadways and on private property, along with inoperable, wrecked, and dismantled vehicles that pose a health and safety risk.  

The California Highway Patrol established the Abandoned Vehicle Abatement Program to provide guidance to counties that want to develop and administer a vehicle abatement program. 

Colusa County currently works with law enforcement to pick up vehicles that have been abandoned, but, ultimately, it is the tow service providers that shoulder the responsibility for vehicles abandoned on public roadways. 

Richard Selover, of Selover’s Towing Service, said he picks up about 200 cars a year, stores them six months until the title can be cleared through the DMV, and then scraps them for about $80, for an overall loss of about $150 per vehicle. 

“We do not get paid for going out and picking up that vehicle for CHP,” said Selover, who encourages the formation of an agency as a mechanism for which they could be paid for some of those services. “It is a burden on us in the private sector.”

Funding would ultimately come from a yearly $1 tax imposed on all registered private vehicles in the county and $2 on all commercial vehicles registered in the county. 

Currently, there are about 39 counties in California that have formed service authorities, most of which were created prior to passage of Proposition 26, the “Stop Hidden Tax” initiative in 2010, which prohibits politicians from using a loophole to raise taxes by disguising them as fees. 

Since Proposition 26’s passage, Plucker said the ability to collect a tax for abandoned vehicle abatement has come into question, causing some counties to suspend their programs. 

“Some have put it to a vote,” Plucker said. “Some have been successful and some haven’t been successful.”  

Before the county moves forward with a Proposition 218 process for voters to decide if they would tax themselves for vehicle abatement, Colusa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Kent Boes directed Plucker to meet with Williams and Colusa officials to see if they would come on board. 

If the county and cities are in agreement, Colusa County may consider a tax initiative for a vehicle abatement program on the November 2020 Presidential Election ballot. 

The board is expected to hear an analysis of the costs to form the program at an upcoming meeting. ■