BALTIMORE — All Baltimore City government buildings will re-open on April 4, but the city’s main impound lot will remain closed to the public.
The impound lot at Pulaski Highway has limited hours, requires an appointment, and hasn’t been open to the public for in-person customer service since March 2020 when it closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drivers, like Robin Morris, say this has caused headaches when trying to retrieve their cars.
Morris left her car in her handicap spot February 23, then sometime overnight it went missing.
“I got a call from Anne Arundel County Police at 1:35 a.m. telling me my car had been stolen,” said Morris. “They had seen it in Brooklyn Park. They saw it pop a tire, but they’re not allowed to pursue the car."
Two days later, she received a call informing her that her car had been taken to the Pulaski impound lot. The next day, Morris’s daughter drove her from Glen Burnie to go pick it up.
“She’s a mom of six, she has a whole bunch of stuff to do but we went out,” said Morris.
When they got there, she was handed a piece of paper and told to make an appointment.
“They hand this through not even an all the way open window, a half-cracked window. You have to call that number,” Morris said holding the handwritten and xeroxed sheet of paper with instructions.
Drivers are instructed to call 410-396-9958, not to use their speakerphone, and to select option 4 then 0. If the wait is longer than five minutes, they're told to hang up and call back.
“We did and held online for 4 hours and never got through to a person,” Morris said.
Morris works for a call center. She knew if she hung up, she’d end up at the back of the queue, so she held on the phone but eventually gave up.
Before leaving, she asked to get her walker out of the car.
“My daughter tried to beg them, plead with them, ‘stress isn’t good for my mom, it really sets her MS off.’ The guy could’ve cared less,” said Morris.
She called again on Monday and got right through. Morris sent over the necessary paperwork then her insurance company called saying she’d have to pay fees before the car can be released.
“I said that’s it, I’m calling Mallory, I’m done with this, like I just want to get my car released. Driving a car is really hard for me. I had an SUV that’s been fitted for me because I have MS and getting in and out is really hard and nobody seems to care about that one,” said Morris.
WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii reached out to the Baltimore City Department of Transportation.
A spokeswoman confirmed Morris’s fees were waived. In January, Mayor Brandon Scott announced a citywide change waiving tow fees for victims of auto theft.
Around two weeks after her car was stolen, Morris’s insurance company picked it up, but she believes the customer service situation needs improvement.
“The excuse they’re using with the customer is COVID and I said what’re you talking about even Brandon Scott has released all COVID restrictions so that didn’t make sense to me,” Morris said.
WMAR-2 News learned the impound lot’s Administration building isn’t closed to the public because of COVID. It’s closed due to renovations.
In an email to Sofastaii, DOT Director of Communications Marly Cardona-Moz wrote:
"The Administration building is still awaiting repair. The lot will resume public-facing customer service when all work is completed. … BCDOT is working with the Department of General Services and proceeding with the renovation. There is a schedule of items that require attention and several factors that may affect the tentative date of completion. The project is active and in progress. There is no set date for completion at this time."
While the Pulaski lot is closed to the public, the Fallsway lot is back open, however, that’s only for peak hour tows. The Fallsway lot is unable to assist any customers with cars being held at the Pulaski lot.
The two lots also have very different hours.
The Fallsway lot is open Monday - Friday 7 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., while the Pulaski lot hours are Monday - Saturday 8:30 a.m. - 3:15 p.m.
BCDOT said average call wait times are 12 to 15 minutes. Calls are taken between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and vehicle release appointments are from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
According to BCDOT, after a customer’s documents have been received and validated a cashier will call the customer, process a payment and schedule a vehicle pick up; all in the same call. When they arrive to pick up the vehicle at the scheduled time and date there is no expected wait time.