Mini buses towed after snafu solved
On Date Street, going Diamond Head, are two large blue-and-white mini buses parked across from Kaimuki High School, although there is a sign saying "No parking weekdays 3:30 p.m. til 6:30 p.m." It is a tow-away zone. Yet, everyday I pass by at 5:30 p.m. and they are parked there. After a few weeks, they were marked as "abandoned vehicles," with citations. Why are they not towed away? If I were to park my car there, it would have been towed away! Why are these two mini buses getting special treatment? I've called the police, but was told that since the vehicles have already been ticketed, it is now the responsibility of the abandoned vehicle department to get to whenever they can. This is ridiculous. The buses are causing major traffic congestion in the afternoon when this lane is supposed to be free and clear of vehicles. Further, it is setting a terrible precedent for others who may want to store or abandon their vehicles there. (Combination of three complaints)
Answer: The mini buses were to be removed this weekend, after the city Department of Customer Service's Motor Vehicle & Licensing Division actively became involved last week.
We could sense growing frustration with motorists as the two buses seemed to flaunt their grafitti-marked presence since September.
There were three major factors that resulted in the buses just sitting there as citations piled up.
One apparently was that the Honolulu Police Department believed the vehicles were abandoned, and therefore the responsibility of the city's abandoned vehicle section to remove.
Another was that neither HPD's nor the city's contract with towing companies called for removing vehicles, such as the two mini buses, with gross vehicle weights of 10,000 pounds or more.
A third factor was that the owner of record "disclaimed" ownership, saying he had sold the buses to another person.
We kept prodding HPD and was told Nov. 2 that top officials with the Customer Services Department were trying to resolve the issue of towing.
On Thursday, Dennis Kamimura, chief of the Motor Vehicle & Licensing Division, explained that the city contract for towing calls for removing only abandoned or derelict vehicles.
The two buses were "not abandoned vehicles," he said. They were "traffic hazards," and therefore the responsibility of HPD to have towed away, he said.
However, asked to help resolve the apparent bureaucratic black hole, Kamimura credited staff in his abandoned vehicle and derelict vehicle sections, working with HPD, for coming up with a solution.
The city was able to declare the buses derelict because the owner disclaimed ownership. But the city insisted it needed ownership titles to the buses "so we don't get sued" later, Kamimura said.
HPD provided the certificate of ownership for both vehicles, he said.
In turn, the city gave the titles to the towing company that had agreed to tow the buses, basically as a favor to the city. With the titles, the contractor does not have to deal with storing the vehicles while waiting for the legal process (public notice, auction, etc.) to play itself out before disposing of them, Kamimura said.
We asked what penalty, if any, the owner faces for leaving the buses in a tow-away zone for weeks.
Ultimately it will be up to the court to decide who is liable for the citations, Kamimura said.
Someone somewhere down the line will have to deal with the numerous "unanswered citations," he explained.
If the owner of record sold the buses to someone else, as he claims, he can ask for a certified copy of a notice of transfer and take that to court to show he is not the owner.
If the court accepts the document, the citations would be applied to the person who "allegedly ditched on the vehicles," Kamimura said. "So somebody will be hit with a whole bunch of traffic tickets."
Meanwhile, the city next year plans to address the issue of towing away vehicles over 10,000 pounds, said Jeff Coelho, director of the Customer Services Department.
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