Lake County sheriff's police have received several telephone calls from motorists perturbed about paying substantial fees after their cars were towed during last week's blizzard.
Whereas drivers whose cars were towed off snow-covered Lake Shore Drive in Chicago didn't have to pay to get their vehicles back, people stuck on Peterson Road, Route 83, Route 60 and Alleghany Road -- all in the Fremont Township area, near Mundelein, Round Lake Park and Grayslake -- did have to fork over some cash to recover their cars.
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So did drivers who abandoned their cars elsewhere in the county.
That's because city of Chicago tow trucks removed the cars on Lake Shore Drive. In Lake County, private companies did the towing.
Although they have towing agreements with the sheriff's office, the firms set their own rates, and the figures vary from company to company, said Dave Godlewski, chief of operations for the sheriff's office.
Some motorists reported paying $285 to get their cars back after the blizzard, while others paid $165.
"When you're dealing with a private entity, they can charge whatever they want," Godlweski said. "I can't dictate to them what they charge."
Two towing jobs performed by the same company can even cost different amounts depending on the work performed, Godlewski explained. For example, pulling a car from a snowy roadside ditch could cost more than removing a car from the roadway, he said.
The sheriff's office priority during the blizzard was to get people to safety and remove cars so emergency vehicles could get through the area, Godlewski said. That was a particular challenge on those Fremont Township roads.
"That whole area was just a disaster area," he said. "It was terrible."
The sheriff's office called towing companies to remove about 20 cars from those roads last Tuesday and Wednesday, Godlewski said. More cars likely were towed at the request of local fire departments, the Illinois Department of Transportation and other agencies, he said.
The sheriff's office will not get a cut of any of the recovery fees paid to the towing companies for work during the blizzard, Godlewski said.