Penn Hills renews tow contract with Don Kuhn Auto Body
Penn Hills Council extended the municipality’s tow truck contract for another five years with Don Kuhn Auto Body, which is owned and operated by the mayor’s husband.
Don Kuhn Auto Body, which has served as the municipality’s towing company for decades, will tow and store cars, pick-up trucks and other larger vehicles that come through emergency dispatch centers through August 2024.
The contract was approved 3-2, with Councilman Mark Brodnicki dissenting and Mayor Sara Kuhn abstaining.
Brodnicki said although Don Kuhn Auto Body has done a good job and prices are fair, he thinks council should think about adopting an ethics ordinance.
“I believe municipal employees and officials should stay away from doing business with family members,” he said in an interview with the Tribune-Review.
He said the contract with Don Kuhn Auto Body, which goes into effect Sept. 1, did not prompt him to look into such an ordinance.
“When I was out knocking on doors for the election, I found most people have a lot of trust in government, but there was some mistrust there,” he said.
He referenced an ordinance adopted in September by Ross Township commissioners that limits elected and appointed officials from doing business with the township or face fines or jail time.
“I don’t know of anyone in Penn Hills doing bad things … but I think it would be a good fit,” Brodnicki said.
The hiring of Don Kuhn Auto Body has been criticized as being nepotism in the past.
When Councilman John Petrucci campaigned for his council seat in 2017, he called a three-year contract that paid the shop $600 per month to store vehicles involved in crimes an example of “preferential treatment” and “nepotism.” That contract did not go out for a bid.
Petrucci said during the July 15 meeting he compared tow and storage companies in the area. He said Don Kuhn Auto Body was the best deal for Penn Hills.
“This is the only vendor in our community that has a salvage license, the only vendor that has sufficient space to store the vehicles and the vendor has been used before and has been servicing Penn Hills for years,” he said, adding he doesn’t see any problems with the contract.
As far as his criticism of the mechanic shop getting preferential treatment, he said the contract is still the best deal for Penn Hills residents.
“But it is an unfortunate situation that the last name is Kuhn. He’s been doing towing with the municipality way before his wife ever got into politics,” Petrucci said.
Mayor Kuhn said the municipality has treated her husband’s business well over the years, which is why he offers free towing for all municipal vehicles, including fire trucks.
“… that is something he chose to do as a payback. So it (has saved) the municipality tens of hundreds or thousands of dollars throughout the years. I thank you all in his name,” Mayor Kuhn said.
Manager Scott Andrejchak said the contract did not go out for a bid because he recommended council to renew it instead. After gathering quotes from area towing companies that cost up to $250 for tows, he said the service brings the best deal to residents.
The contract, in part, states all wrecked, stolen, abandoned and broken down cars and pick-up trucks will be towed for $205 during regular and irregular business hours until September 2021, when the fee increases to $225.
If those vehicles require Don Kuhn Auto Body to remove them from the road, an additional charge of $175 per hour will be tacked to the fee. That charge increases to $185 per hour starting September 2021.
Municipal vehicles will be towed without charge if it is within Penn Hills boundaries. If the vehicle is outside the boundaries, or being towed outside Penn Hills, the fee will be at a discounted rate.
Vehicles involved in criminal investigations will be towed at no cost to the municipality.
Storage rates will be set for $40 per day if vehicles are stored for more than four hours. The fee will increase to $50 in September 2021. Larger vehicles will be stored for $90 per day and $100 per day in September 2021.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .