The contract reprieve that Jack’s Towing Co. received from the Oak Lawn Village Board last month did not last long at all.
For more than 15 years, Jack’s, which operates from a village-owned site at 4500 Southwest Highway, has been the company used by the police department and the village whenever vehicles need to be removed from local roads.
Village Manager Larry Deetjen pointed out at the March 22 meeting that the unusually long 15-year contract awarded to Jack’s Towing in 2000 had run out last October. But his request for board approval to give the next contract to TechniCraft in Justice and Walsh’s Towing, based in Chicago Ridge, was rejected by the board, who voted 3-3, with Mayor Sandra Bury breaking the tie.
At that time, Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) joined Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Bob Streit (3rd) in voting against the change, with Bury siding with them to break the tie. But on Tuesday, he asked that the board reconsider Deetjen’s request, and this time, with his vote to approve the new agreement, it passed, much to the disappointment of Jack’s owner and drivers in the audience. Jack’s only towing contract was with the village, so it is expected to go out of business.
Desmond said he asked for the issue to be put back on the agenda because questions remained after the last meeting. Furthermore, he noted that since that last meeting, Jack’s Towing had changed ownership, when Mike Queenan had sold it to his brother, Ron.
He also suggested that the board shouldn’t even have been asked to vote on the matter, since the taxpayer “neither pays nor gets paid for” the towing company used mainly by the police department. Trustees Bud Stalker (5th) and Michael Carberry (6th) agreed with him on that point, saying the decision probably should be left to the village administrator and the police department.
Although by all accounts Jack’s Towing had no complaints against it, Desmond questions why the company was given such a long contract in the first place.
“Fifteen years ago, the village board voted to allow a private company use of village property to operate a towing and village storage facility. They paid no rent or utilities over this 15-year period, which likely saved them more than $1 million, which could have gone to the taxpayers.”
Deetjen said the site where Jack’s is located is the gateway to the village, and the board had agreed that the land should be put up for sale.
He said the owner of Jack’s had been warned that the land could be sold.
“It is within eyesight of a half-billion dollars of investment in this village,” said Deetjen, referring to Advocate Christ Medical Center at 4440 W. 95th St., and suggesting that the Jack’s Towing site has increased in value.
Both Olejniczak and Streit questioned whether the village really lost $1 million in the deal made 15 years ago.
“Has the site been sold yet?,” asked Olejniczak, asserting that it is not as valuable as Deetjen maintains. In any case, he said that Jack’s Towing is being unfairly penalized now for that agreement.
After the meeting, Ed Forsythe, a longtime driver for Jack’s, said that reconsidering the previous decision was a shock and unfair to the company and its employees.
“It’s very unethical,” he said. “I gave up a job offer with another company because I thought the decision was made. Now I am unemployed again.”