Metro Louisville

Louisville Metro officials say they are working on various projects to address the city’s overcrowded impound lot, which has led to abandoned vehicles piling up on public streets in recent years. Those improvements are also allowing the city to press pause on a controversial plan to put a temporary lot in Shively, they say.

At a press conference Friday, Mayor Greg Fischer and Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields outlined the new improvements in the works. 

LMPD is the agency responsible for maintaining the impound lot and hiring civilian tow operators. They said the city recently signed a contract with the company Auctions ASAP, which will allow for vehicle auctions twice per month. And residents can now report abandoned vehicles on public roadways through the Louisville Metro 311 app.

“We understand the blight that abandoned vehicles represent,” Fischer said. “When things are not getting taken care of anywhere in the city, you’re just thinking ‘Man, can’t the city do better here?’ While the pandemic was a problem, hopefully we’re moving beyond that.”

Fischer said police have pulled roughly 260 disabled vehicles off the street since January. Earlier in the pandemic, police weren’t towing vehicles at all.

Louisville impound lot, which has been located on Frankfort Avenue for at least 50 years, is only built to hold up to 1,700 vehicles. For years, the lot has grown more and more crowded. 

Metro Council legislation said in December that 2,700 cars were being held there. Officials said Friday they’ve been able to get that number down to about 1,250.

Major Emily McKinley, who heads LMPD’s administrative services division, said city workers are now putting barcodes on vehicles stored on the impound lot embedded with information about their make, model and location. She said that makes the process quicker when someone comes to retrieve their car.

“Obviously, this problem did not occur overnight and it’s not going to be fixed overnight,” McKinley said. “This is a long-term project. This is a forever project.”

City officials also announced they recently signed a contract with auto auctions company IAAI to manage an auxiliary impound lot. IAAI, which sells damaged and total-loss vehicles, will hold abandoned cars if the city’s tow lot becomes too crowded. The company currently owns a lot off Preston Highway.

Fischer said that contract will allow Louisville Metro to wait on a plan to create a temporary auction lot on 5.3 acres of city-owned land along 7th Street Road in Shively. That plan was announced in December and received immediate pushback from Shively officials, who accused Fischer of trying to turn the small, working class city into a dumping ground.

 

Shively Mayor Beverly Chester Burton said at the time that 7th Street Road is a gateway to her city and nearby attractions, and she didn’t think it was the proper place to store wrecked cars.

“Think about the people that often travel the corridor who are coming in for a bourbon tour or visiting Churchill Downs,” Burton said. “That’s not a good way to greet people into your city …the first thing they see is something that’s going to cause an eyesore.”

Fischer said on Friday that city officials want to see how the new improvements work out before making any decisions on whether to move forward with the temporary lot in Shively.

Louisville Metro Council approved an ordinance last year allowing for amnesty periods, in which people can retrieve their cars from the city’s impound lot without having to pay many of the associated fees. Officials said that has also helped to clear some of the vehicles from the impound lot.

The city held a weeklong amnesty period in January. Angela Ingram, a spokesperson for LMPD, told WFPL News that 87 vehicles were returned to their owner during that period, compared to about 50 in a typical week.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL.