N.C. Schools Want Out of Used Car Business
Posted March 8, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST
RALEIGH — It seemed like a good idea in the beginning to confiscate cars from drunk drivers, sell the vehicles, and give the money to public schools. But it turned out to be easier said than done.
There's now a plan to take the strain off schools, and to get them out of the used car business.
Several hundred cars, motorcycles, vans and trucks have been collected in Wake County alone. They sit forlornly on a towing company's lot.
They sit, as do almost 5,000 others collected statewide. Out of that 5,000, a mere 60 such confiscated vehicles have been resold.
It is not what the program's creators had hoped for.
One obstacle to unloading the vehicles is that many of them are simply "clunkers," and therefore not of much interest -- or worth -- on the used car market. Even though they were valuable to the original owner, the market views value differently.
John Evans, transportation director for Johnston County Schools, says the DWI Forfeiture Law "has been a tremendous burden for transportation directors" like him.
He says the law is well-intentioned, but is not good law. He welcomes a new measure designed to move cars off his lot.
The State Department of Public Instruction is now accepting bids from private firms to handle the resale of the vehicles.
"We are in the process of reviewing those bids, hoping to put a vendor in place that will take possession of the vehicles, store the vehicles, process the paperwork, and ultimately sell the vehicles," says Derek Graham, transportation chief for the Department of Public Instruction.
The vendors will get a percentage of the profit, but a private vendor handling just Wake County says there is little profit to share. Most cars are not worth much and vendors hired by DPI will have to cover one-third of the state -- a tough job.
"I don't know how one vendor could handle that," says Evans. "He would have entirely too much territory to cover. It would be so time-consuming and expensive. I don't think one vendor could handle the eastern part of the state."
Graham expects the bidding process to last two to three weeks, and that a firm could be identified and handling the vehicles by late spring.