A Buckhannon City Councilman criticized local businesses during Thursday's meeting for "giving the city a black eye" when they partnered with an out-of-area company to tow cars during the West Virginia Strawberry Festival.
Dozens of vehicles were reportedly towed by Curry Towing, a Burnsville company that allegedly entered into contracts with 22 businesses in Buckhannon.
The issue came to a head May 15, and Currys' reportedly left Buckhannon two days later. The businesses allegedly involved in the matter were not identified by council members.
"My understanding is that the towing company initiated the contacts," Councilman David Thomas said. "What I am disappointed in is the lack of consideration and sensitivity of these property owners. It's disappointing that these businesses did this on a weekend we were encouraging visitors to come to town. What kind of taste does that leave in their mouth? We became known as the town where you park at your own risk. We got a black eye because of this sort of activity."
Councilman Ron Pugh noted that many of the businesses alleged to have been involved with the towing company were closed during much of the festival's activity, "and it didn't impact them at all."
City Attorney David McCauley said he contacted the state's Public Service Commission to see what remedy the city had in the situation, only to learn that the PSC does not get involved in such disputes.
McCauley said PSC representative Stacy Beller informed him any remedies would have to be sought by the person whose vehicle was towed, and those cases would have to go through a civil court. Beller likened the Strawberry Festival situation to one which routinely occurs in Morgantown where apartment complex owners often have non-resident vehicles pulled from those lots.
Councilman Tom O'Neill took issue with the PSC response, calling Beller's words "condescending."
"It seems like the PSC is saying, 'That's the way it is, and there's nothing we can do about it."'
Beller, however, did recommend that festival organizers and city leaders work together to develop a comprehensive parking plan for future events. He said publications indicating where sanctioned parking could be found should be made available prior to the start of the event.
He also suggested a partnership with West Virginia Wesleyan College, saying that a shuttle bus could run between the college and the downtown area. Beller also suggested taking down the fence at the former skate park site near the Public Safety Complex, which he believed would create 40 additional spots.