WATERVILLE — Students and Colby College security staff are often at odds with one another over parking violations and student car-towings, primarily over how notifications happen and fees from private companies.

A number of students shared their experiences and frustrations in interviews with the Colby Echo, including Molly Smith, graduating in 2021, whose car was towed after leaving it in the Mary Low parking lot over President’s Day weekend.

“I got called at midnight, while I was asleep, by security saying, ‘You need to move your car now or we will’, but I was asleep, so I couldn’t and didn’t get the message until morning,” Smith said. “I went straight to campus on the shuttle at 8 a.m., but it was already gone.”

Smith is among several students who recently spoke to the Echo — some who declined to be identified — who said they’re concerned with the college’s parking practices and the way in which students are notified of violations. On its website, Colby’s security department states that “any vehicle parked on campus without a permit and all illegally parked vehicles are subject to being ticketed and/or being towed at the owner’s expense,” which includes a $100 fine.

In a statement, Director of Security Robert Williams detailed the protocol that Colby security staff follow when towing cars.

Robert Williams is the security director at Colby College in Waterville. Kennebec Journal file photo by Andy Molloy

“Following a snow event, which is when most violations take place, the campus community is notified that a snow removal plan will be in effect for the coming weekend and that cars will need to be moved within a state time frame,” Williams wrote. “After the last storm security called 175 students that hadn’t moved their cars. Unfortunately, the majority of community members contacted did not respond.”

Smith said she was frustrated by the short notice she received from security before her car was towed. Campus Life sent an email to the student body on Thursday requesting that all cars be moved out of the Mary Low parking lot by 5 a.m. on Saturday morning. Smith did not see this email and was unaware that her car needed to be moved.

This was just the beginning of an expensive and disruptive process for Smith, who had to attend a family event in Connecticut. “I got a friend to drive me to the tow company at 9:30 and they were closed for the weekend, so not only did they take our cars but they took them without giving us a way to get them back that weekend,” she said.

Smith said she also had medication in her car. “When they take cars, they don’t know what’s inside,” she said.

Smith was unhappy with the lack of notification from security but took even more issue with the way the tow company handled the situation and the towing fee. Smith “started following different tow trucks to their locations” in order to find her car.

After locating it, she “went up to the tow driver and said, ‘You need to give me my car, please’ and he said, ‘Yeah, for an extra fifty bucks’. … That was on top of the 100 they charge anyway, so 150 total.”

Smith was not the only student who ran into issues with towing and storage fees. Carson Ford, graduating in 2023, back to school at 9:20 a.m. after JanPlan break for her 10 a.m. class. At the Bob’s lot, “I drove around for 10 minutes trying to find a parking spot and there was not a single one available, so I parked in the dead worst teacher spot to try to be polite to the situation, and then I left my car there for three days because I forgot it was in a teacher spot.”

When she returned to the car, it had been towed. “Mind you, my car is registered, they have my plates, they know whose car it is,” she said.

Ford said that she was not notified that her car had been towed, “so by the time I figured out my car was towed and could go get it, it had racked up fees and cost $240 to get it freed. There were also three tickets from security on my car when I went to pick it up.”

Ford felt that the whole situation could have been avoided with an email from security informing her that her car would be towed. “If they had told me, I could have got it immediately, but they didn’t tell me even though my car is registered,” Ford said.

She also felt that the lack of available parking on campus played into the issue: “I pay for a parking pass, which means there will be a spot for me to park my car in, but there are no spots.”

Williams, the security director, said in his statement that security’s goal is to find a solution.

“While we are aware that campus parking can at times be challenging and inconvenient, we look forward to continuing to work with the community to create the best situation possible,” Williams wrote.

 

 


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