Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry said Tuesday the city will evaluate its actions during this week's snow emergency to see whether there are ways to do it better.
The snow emergency was declared at 6 p.m. Monday and lifted by 11 a.m. Tuesday. The ban — which required parked vehicles along certain Lexington streets to be moved or towed — angered many drivers, including several University of Kentucky students who say officials could have done more to inform them that their cars would be towed.
Bluegrass Towing towed 138 vehicles parked along designated snow emergency routes during the snow emergency. About 150 vehicles were moved voluntarily by their owners, in some instances after police officers knocked on doors to warn drivers.
Lexington police spokesman Lt. Doug Pape said the majority of the towed vehicles were from downtown; not particularly the university area.
"It happens every time; the same people every time," Pape said. "That's why we spent four hours knocking on doors."
Pape said officers "communicated the best way we could."
"If your car got towed, that means we couldn't find you," he said. "Our general rule of thumb is we try to find the owners first."
Several students didn't hear those knocks by Lexington police.
Melissa Cowan, 20, a junior at UK who lives on Maxwell Street, said she did not know about the snow emergency, and when she got ready to go to class Tuesday morning, her car, which was parked in front of her residence, was gone.
Alonzo McGill of Virginia, who was visiting friends in Lexington when his car got towed, said he thinks it's "totally just a money racket." "It's not like we had 12 inches of snow," he said as he stood at a clerk's window at Bluegrass Towing on Manchester Street. McGill said he parked his car outside a residence on Malabu Drive about 11 p.m. Monday and the car was gone when he woke up Tuesday morning.
He said the mayor should reimburse him and everyone else whose vehicles were towed.
Bluegrass Towing office manager Sandie Evans says her company is not the bad guy.
The towing business has a contract with the city to tow vehicles that are parked illegally. Lexington police call Bluegrass Towing, and officers are at locations where there are cars to be towed when tow-truck drivers arrive, she said. The towing fees are based on that contract.
Owners of cars parked along designated snow routes had to move them by 10 p.m. Monday to avoid being towed.
"It's not like we're making a bunch of money," said Ken Hall, customer service manager at Bluegrass Towing. "We get all the flak."
The standard charge for Bluegrass Towing to move a car from a designated snow emergency route Monday or Tuesday was $90. In addition, car owners got $15 tickets for parking illegally.
The mayor said the city went through its normal steps to notify the community, which included contacting radio and television stations and the newspaper, and putting a notice on the city's Web page.
City officials did not make a special effort to notify UK. Media outlets were notified of the snow emergency Monday afternoon, followed by a news conference at 5:30 p.m.
Messages went out on Twitter and Facebook about 8:30 p.m.
Crystal Williams, who lives on Malabu Drive, said she couldn't go to work Tuesday because her car was gone.
"I work two jobs, so I didn't watch the news," she said while waiting her turn to pay at Bluegrass Towing.
Although some residents were not happy about a snow emergency or having their cars towed, Newberry said he hoped "far more folks are happy that the streets were in remarkably good condition, given the weather conditions that we had."
The mayor said he hoped residents took heed of the fact that "if you live or park on a snow emergency route, you need to be attentive that this can happen from time to time if the weather conditions necessitate."
Asked whether the university could have done more to alert students, Anthany Beatty, UK's assistant vice president for Campus Services, said the best advice he has for students and employees is to watch local media outlets for information in situations such as the snow emergency.
UK has an emergency alert system for students and employees about campus safety issues, but that system "is for crisis management," and the snow emergency did not rise to that level, Beatty said.
He said about 21,000 people have signed up for the UK Alert system, which sends e-mails to students and employees. UK has about 40,000 students and employees on campus, he said.
Beatty said UK has not sent notifications to students and employees about snow emergency orders issued by the city in previous years, relying instead on "local media sources" to get the word out.
"We're having discussions about ways to point people in the right directions," he said. "We certainly understand the dilemma folks were in."