When one abandoned car is left parked at an angle for over three months along highway 95 near the East Cottonwood turn-off in Walker Lake, residents wondered why it hadn’t been towed away by any law enforcement. It seemed as if a few phone calls could get it done and yet that was not the case.
In asking Mineral County Undersheriff Bill Ferguson for an explanation, his response was that it was not in county jurisdiction. In phoning Trooper Mark Fox of the highway patrol, it was found that although the vehicle had been tagged by a patrol officer, stating, “10:40 a.m. 8/8/17 #667 – Will be towed in 24 hours”, the car was in-fact not parked on NDOT (Nevada Department of Transportation) property, so the highway patrol held no jurisdiction to tow the car. In a call made to NDOT, a referral to “the easement” department was advised, which can be done online and takes up to 6 weeks for a response. It appeared that NDOT’s property included a small ridge line of the highway, approximately 30 feet from the middle line.
From here, a personal investigation at the county assessor’s office to secure property ownership had conflicting answers, even though this section appeared to be a public easement area, housing utility poles, a hydrant, postal boxes and a frontage road pull off. The filed plot plans revealed that 008-092-01 was indeed written for that entire corner as a residential lot, extending up to the NDOT line along Highway 95. In viewing the same plot page, it also showed that the asphalt street known as Randall Street, ended at the firehouse. Reality is that Randall Street intersects directly into East Cottonwood. Using the current plot map, three lot owners north of Cottonwood East, along Randall Street would own street property up to the highway.
Homeowners Michael and Shelly Lovitt, who live in the adjoining residential home on lots facing East Cottonwood, wondered why their grant deed description was not matching the filed plot plan at the Accessor’s offices. The paperwork from the sale described the property they live on, mentioning a “right-of-way” but not designating who holds ownership.
Locally the post office had no direction as to ownership where the mail boxes stand, stating a letter must be submitted by “the proper party” with documentation which will go through their own U.S. Postal Department to decipher an answer.
In the County Assessor’s office, another overhead photograph view showed a configuration with lines accurate to what the Lovitt’s believe is their legal property. This was from a computer program utilized daily in their office, but it is contrary to the plot plan mapping.
Chris Nepper, county clerk-treasurer and former employee of the assessor’s office, was shown the two contradicting maps and acknowledged a need for updating by stating, “All the mappings need to correspond correctly to the actual legal appearance of the proper use,” speaking to the point that Randall Street is not showing properly on record.
Mike Fontaine, county building inspector, felt that location appeared to be an easement for public land use, especially with mail boxes and utility use established. Eric Hamrey of the public works and maintenance department, stated by phone, that the county maintenance department had no responsibility on said property and it appeared that it would’ve been a private, commercial section of land.
Mark Nixon from the planning commission weighed in that pulling older maps, which may translate back into the 1960’s, may show the original location as a commercial lot at one time. “I know what you are talking about and I have definitely noticed that car sitting for a long time, but I would have to pull older records and research this to be sure,” Nixon stated.
Discussion with the Nevada Legal Services brought about the fact that unless a sign is posted which warns that a vehicle left onsite would be towed, then whoever calls for the tow would be responsible for it, unless it is the actual property owner. The tow company would then contact the owner directly and follow their rightful procedures.”
The local Department of Motor Vehicles were limited to confidential guidelines, but confirmed that the vehicle was registered within Nevada and that it appeared it was abandoned by the owner, as the plates were transferred to another vehicle by the owner. This information was garnered by using the vin number visible from the car’s front window.
Lastly, Woody’s Towing Services stated that once ownership of the property is finally determined, the property owner can make a written request to have the abandoned vehicle towed. In researching this vehicle to be a 2001, first-generation electric hybrid, Honda Insight, the current resale on the car is less than the replacement battery would be. “No wonder they abandoned the car – it has no value and we get to tow it, then do all the paperwork on it, then notify the owner and gradually it will go to a lien sale, which won’t even cover our costs.”
Calling a phone number left on the car seat, no one has responded to several attempts of reaching the possible owner, so the abandoned vehicle continues to sit along the frontage section of Walker Lake.