Kansas City's towing industry is a wreck.

One Tow Over the Line 

Kansas City's towing industry is a wreck.

Page 10 of 11

Earlier this month, Mohart's department finished soliciting bids to turn over the control of Kansas City's tow management operation to a private entity, which would be allowed to move the lot to another location and set up additional lots around the city. If that happens, city employees at the lot will either stay there or move to other positions. Morhart says the plan is to have a new contractor in place by September.

Booth says something smells with Mohart's plan. "They have taken a bid from some of their own employees, the same people who are stealing and committing fraud. They should give it to somebody that can do all this for them and do it right."Would that person be Joe Booth? He laughs at the thought. "Hell, all those tow companies that talk about me are going to be working for me anyway," he says.

Booth is preparing to unveil the most glorious of his machinations to date: a national roadside assistance program and hotline that will revolutionize the towing industry. Booth says the concept will enable motorists to dial *811 for a reliable, reputable tow truck 24 hours a day -- the program should make wreck-chasing obsolete, he says. He has contracted with Southwestern Bell and plans to launch the number in the near future. In literature for his new venture, called the National Roadside Assistance Association, Booth asks tow operators to sign up with his service, and he recommends that they "look at (their) towing and road service vehicles and the personnel who man them as rolling advertisements worthy of investment; rather than a separate entity which needs to break even at the price (they) are paid for each call."

And who can question the intentions of a man who is haunted by one surreal moment during his escape from the fire at the MGM Grand. While he and other guests scrambled through the smoke-filled hallways, Booth and his wife saw two men in wheelchairs being pushed by their wives. The women were crying, and so was Booth's wife. Booth and several others, including Kansas City-area residents Glenn and Patsy Barr, helped lift the disabled men through a window to safety.

Sometimes, Booth wonders what might happen if he used a wheelchair and were involved in an accident. Because his blood-clotting problem has weakened his legs, Booth wears tight-fitting therapeutic stockings to improve his circulation. He fears he will be unable to walk one day.

That's why he has been in contact with Luxury TowVan Corp. of Portland, Oregon, which began serving disabled customers in 1998 with an accessible tow truck called the Tow Van -- one fitted with a wheelchair lift and an extra cab. Portland operates eight such vans, and there are seven others around the country. Booth says he plans to ask the city council to purchase a Tow Van for emergency calls involving people in wheelchairs.

"Statistics show that over 50 percent of Americans will be over 65 by the year 2010," Booth says, "and we need to take care of the disabled. We need one (a Tow Van) in Kansas City, but they never listen to me. I try to tell them things and they don't care.

"I'm trying to find ways to help motorists. I'm not out trying to rape people or make money for myself."

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