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Concord students, parents upset after cars towed

Several Concord High School students – or perhaps their parents – are out nearly $200 each after Cumberland Farms ordered their cars towed from a vacant lot Friday. Whether they or the school got fair warning is a matter of contention.

Parking around the high school is tight, and students had been using the parking lot of the former Red and Gold convenience store across from the school since the store closed earlier this year. That came to an end Friday when students left school in the afternoon to find their cars gone.

One student thought his car had been stolen and sought out Officer Mark Hassapes, the school’s resource officer, for help, Hassapes said. Jeff Lewis, whose son’s car was towed, said students were given no notice that their cars would be removed.

The small lot wasn’t posted as off-limits for parking until the evening before the cars were towed, several sources said. And the notice, which says “No Parking” but does not say violators would be towed, was handwritten and stuck to the side of the boarded-up store. The words “no parking” were also spray-painted on a couple of places in the lot.

Five cars were towed and one student, who happened to arrive when the tow trucks were there, was allowed to drive his car away, according to an employee at John’s Wrecker Service, which was hired Friday by Cumberland Farms. Cumberland Farms owns the property and had been renting the space to Red and Gold.

Lewis sent an email to a Cumberland Farms official Friday night after paying $195 to get his son’s car from the wrecker company and shared his note with the Monitor.

“While I understand that the property is private and it is certainly within the rights of the property owner to decide at any time to prohibit students from parking on the lot, I am perplexed at why there has been a sudden change in policy, with virtually no notice given to the students at all,” Lewis wrote. He continued, “A little advance notice could go a long way towards being a good neighbor in a small community.”

In an interview this week, Cumberland Farms spokesman Derek Beckwith said the company decided to have the cars towed about a week ago after a tree behind the store fell. “It’s not just that it’s private property,” Beckwith said. “It’s also a safety issue. We don’t want anything to happen to anyone’s car.”

Asked whether students were given advance notice about the towing, Beckwith first said staff in the high school’s main office were asked to relay a warning to students over the intercom before Friday. Lisa Lamb, administrative assistant to Principal Gene Connolly, said that’s not true.

“There was no warning,” Lamb said. They “came in on Friday and said, ‘We are towing the cars.’ They didn’t give us the opportunity to tell students.”

Beckwith then said Hassapes, the school resource officer, was alerted before the towing and agreed to warn students that cars would be removed Friday. “Some people did get notification,” Beckwith added. “In terms of being able to track down all the conversations, I don’t have that information for you.”

Reached later, Hassapes said that he wasn’t warned that the cars would be removed. Hassapes said he discovered cars were being towed only after the student reported that his car was missing Friday. “We had no notice that (Cumberland Farms) was towing cars,” he said.

Beckwith did not return another call seeking clarification.

A spokesman at John’s Wrecker Service, who declined to give his name, said he was contacted Friday morning about 8:30 by a Cumberland Farms representative seeking to have the cars towed. He said he didn’t agree to tow the cars until he received the request in writing and on the company’s letterhead.

He also asked whether the property had been properly posted as private, he said. The spokesman said the Cumberland Farms representative told him the property had been posted the night before. The $195 charge is standard for a “no trespassing” tow, he said.

“We don’t patrol for this type of situation,” he said. “We were hired to do a job.”

Lewis said he talked yesterday with the Cumberland Farms spokeswoman he had contacted Friday. “She was generally apologetic,” he said. “She said it could have been handled differently, but that they were well within their right to have the cars towed.”

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

Legacy Comments15

Mixed thoughts on this one. First and foremost the site is an eyesore anyway and the lot is not in use. But, it was posted and honestly why do people think that they can pick and choose where they want to park on private property. Cumberland Farms, however was pretty much not that forthcoming that they did not want anyone parking there. "No Parking" spray painted on a couple of signs is not really professional. Of course there is liability on the part of Cumberland should anyone get hurt on their property and it was allowed and they said nothing. Kind of a complex case. The $100 gift card still leaves those towed $95 out!

Maybe this is off point a little, but is too bad the high school is located in such a busy area. It is so difficult to get through there and to the hospital at certain times. If the school had been located away from the down town it might be able to have the sports field attached to the buildings and maybe enough space for parking. Of course when it was built it probably was off the beaten path.

Update: Cumberland Farms has just notified us they will be reimbursing those who had their cars towed - and giving them a $100 gift card to Cumberland Farms stores. Details in tomorrow's Monitor.

Any update on where the employee who ordered the towing will be spending his or her holidays?

*sigh* Reimbursing the towing I suppose is reasonable, especially if Cumby's believes they could have done a better job of warning people.... but giving them a $100 reward for whining about being caught doing something they had no permission to be doing? One more entity enabling the "entitlement" mentality. If I were in charge at Cumby's I wouldn't have done it. But I suppose it's not business' job to teach children and their parents a sense of responsibility. They'll be happy to have the good will of those students who are probably their biggest customers in that location.

I'm sorry, but this flaming liberal says: "If you park, without prior explicit approval, on private property, you should have no expectation that your car will still be there when you get back. Complaining about it afterward, especially on behalf of your teenaged child, is pathetic, and teaches the child nothing about respect for other people's property or dealing with the natural consequences of doing something you don't have permission to do." Yes, Cumby's could have been a better neighbor, but they have no obligation to be a better neighbor, and the sooner people (and children) understand that they are not always going to be treated the deference they desire, the sooner they will learn to protect themselves and to not take things personally. Life is not always fair or polite. Deal with it maturely and everyone is better off.

I would encourage you to visit the parking lot in question. And just imagine that over the course of this school year it being filled with student cars each day. Not the same cars mind you, but different ones each day. Of course there was not explicit permission granted by the property owner. However, you could argue that there was implied consent, certainly on behalf of the teenagers who drive by everyday and see other kids parking there, over the course of months. Cumby's absolutely had the right to tow the cars, without any notice, albeit a very discourteous and unsympathetic way to go about it. And the kids and parents absolutely have a right to voice their opinion. You will never convince me that being an advocate for your child is a bad thing. Honestly, it is a sign of a good parent if you ask me. I think that there is another, even greater, life lesson here that you are missing. But I guess that dealing with something "maturely" is a matter of opinion. Carry on.

Jimmy - I drive by the lot nearly every day, so I'm very familiar with it. I hear what you are saying. I think my reaction comes from seeing far too many parents react to their child's poor behavior by claiming that he/she did nothing wrong, and often going on the offensive to blame others for the child's behavior. It's one thing to advocate for a child who is truely getting a bum rap, but it's quite another to bail them out of situations that appropriate behavior would have prevented. The bail out teaches entitlement despite wrong-doing, whereas advocacy models standing up for one's self when falsely accused or legitimately under-served. By the way, what ever happened to the sage old question "if you saw your friends jumping off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff too?" Paying a $195 towing charge might just be the thing that gets a kid to think twice about doing that kind of thing in the future. Critical thinking skills, yanno?

I obviously don't know enough about the facts as you do. If you feel compelled to judge the parents involved and label them as "pathetic" then go right ahead. Whatever helps you sleep at night. Maybe you're right....just a bunch of complainers I guess. For myself, I didn't get that when I read the article. So I'm not inclined to pass judgement like you are. I live by a standard that gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. Open-minded and compassionate, yanno?

it is funny how these parents blame Cumberland farms for not giving them more notice how about it not a parking lot and they should of just not parked there in the first place . it just shows how the younger generation feels that they are self entitled . it be hole lot different if one of these kids got hurt there parent would be looking to sue the pants of cumbys .

It looks like Cumby's just made a lot of new friends. The first thing that gave me a hint that Red & Gold was gone was that the Irving gas station across the street raised their gas prices over a nickel per gallon...

Merry Christmas, courtesy of your local Cumberland Farms. Enjoy your .99 cent coffee.

Yeah, they could have posted the no parking, your car will be towed for a week, that way they would have given plenty of notice.

Cumberland Farms should be ashamed of themselves.

Its Private property. The owners can do as they please. Good luck trying to get the money back.

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