City slow to tow abandoned cars
An audit recommends computerizing and streamlining the program's operations
The city division responsible for picking up abandoned cars on Oahu needs to do its job more quickly and efficiently, a city auditor's report says.
In the three-year period studied by city Auditor Leslie Tanaka, vehicles that are supposed to be moved within 14 to 15 working days remained on the roadsides an average of more than a month, his report said.
His report, released yesterday, recommends the Abandoned and Derelict Vehicles Program, part of the Department of Customer Services:
» Computerize its system, so it can better track vehicle complaints and outcomes.
» Streamline operations.
» Coordinate better with the Honolulu Police Department.
» Require that contracting tow companies comply with city contracts.
A year ago the department started to computerize what was an all-paper abandoned-vehicle process, Director Jeff Coelho said. The computerization, complete with laptops for inspectors and links to police and towing contractors, should be complete early next year, he said.
"That whole area languished for years with outdated technology and outdated equipment," Coelho said. The upgrades, which will be paid for out of the division's $2.8 million annual budget, will make it "computerized from start to finish," he said.
About $2.4 million of the income to move junked cars comes from an annual $5 vehicle registration fee, Coelho said.
From 2003 to 2005, the city received 78,782 complaints about abandoned and derelict vehicles, Tanaka's report said. That translated into more than 21,000 vehicles towed -- a majority of them in inoperative condition.
Coelho is asking that clerks for his division be allowed to receive a higher pay rate, in hopes they will stay there instead of transferring to a higher-paying division, he said in a written response to the audit.
Tanaka's report praised Coelho's department for taking action on many of his findings before the audit was even completed.
Coelho said he believes Oahu's roadways are less junky than in the past. But, he said, abandoned vehicles will always be a challenge when 50,000 vehicles are sold each year and up to 20,000 taken out of service.