POCATELLO — There’s an old joke about funeral homes doing well because people are dying to get in, but Downard Funeral Home owner Lance Peck isn’t laughing about how many people seem to be “dying” to use his private parking lot.
Despite the presence of eight red and white signs warning drivers about a possible tow for using the lot without permission, illegal parking is escalating.
“I don’t know if its the air or the moon, but people just aren’t as respectful anymore,” Peck said.
A bad situation became worse Tuesday night when one unhappy motorist engaged in a verbal argument with a driver from Stan’s Pro Tows who had been called to remove an illegally parked vehicle in Downard’s lot.
“That person was throwing things like sunglasses at the him (the tow truck driver) and yelling obscenities,” Peck said.
It turns out the upset driver was just running up the bill with Stan’s.
“When they get upset, it can increase the price,” Doug Henson of Stan’s Pro Tow said.
It’s a price that is steep enough with a minimum of $160 for a tow from private property. Henson said there is a $40 per day fee for additional storage time and if someone wants to retrieve a towed vehicle after 5 p.m., they face an additional $80 “after hours” fee.
“There’s a lot of liability involved in a private property tow,” Henson said.
Downard owner Peck said he doesn’t enjoy having vehicles towed from his lot which contains 39 parking spaces between Garfield Ave. and W. Clark Street. But, he said he also has to provide that space for his customers — usually grieving families.
Peck said he averages about three or four viewings per week.
The battle for parking space usually comes when an event is being held at Pocatello High School. Peck said although school is out for the summer, things like dance recitals and cheer camps can bring an influx of traffic. A dance recital was the culprit Tuesday night when the Downard lot started to fill up with unauthorized vehicles.
Peck said he contacted the event organizers to spread the word that the lot needed to be cleared and all but three people chose to do so.
Among those who didn’t was a young man who had his car towed and that prompted a call to Peck from the boy’s father. Peck said the father wasn’t rude, but he did make excuses for his son such as the fact he was new to driving and didn’t know better.
“It’s clearly marked,” Peck said about his lot.
In fact each of the eight signs he has posted state: Downard Funeral Home Parking Only, unauthorized or improperly parked vehicles will be impounded 24 hours a day at owner’s risk and expense.” The signs include the name of the towing company and the phone number.
That is all that is required under Idaho law, according to Lt. Steve Stone of the Pocatello Police Department.
“Even if it’s a large parking lot, it’s private property,” Stone said. “It’s normally not a police matter and we don’t typically get involved.”
An exception would be if a unhappy driver struck a tow truck operator or caused any property damage.
Peck said he doesn’t like to be the bad guy, but he has a responsibilityto his business.
“We love the area and we love the people, but we have to keep our property available for grieving people,” he said.
Many of the services conducted at Downard’s happen after normal business hours and this may have some people confused, according to Peck. He has a solution. Peck said if someone asks permission and the lot will not be used for business, it is possible he will grant permission for temporary parking.
“The primary purpose of the funeral home is funeral patrons,” Peck said. And he’s dead serious about the right of those patrons to have convenient parking.