Three years ago, Tammy Sanders bought a car for what she thought was a steal: $700.
Four weeks ago, a crook stole it from in front of her East Side home.
Now the home health care aide, who works six days a week and struggles to make ends meet, said the car has been recovered, but the city won’t give it back unless she pays hundreds of dollars in towing and storage fees.
For Sanders, her 1993 Cutlass is a means of reliable transportation from home to her Clarence job, which often requires two trips a day because of split shifts. She says she has been able to keep her job only because an acquaintance is loaning her his car.
“I can’t afford to get my car out of storage, and I feel like I’m getting robbed all over again,” said Sanders, who earns $9.65 an hour.
By late Wednesday, a deal was in the works to cut her a break.
Aside from the aggravation to Sanders, the cost of having her car stolen had stood at more than $400 in towing and storage fees, but city officials told The Buffalo News they are willing to cut that in about half.
The car was located in the Bailey-Genesee neighborhood Sept. 20, but Sanders said the police never called to let her know.
Notices sent out from the impound lot alerting her that the vehicle had been recovered and could be claimed never made it to her current residence on the 400 block of Cambridge Avenue. The notices, she said, instead went to her old address on Grider Street.
“I haven’t lived on Grider for 2½ years,” she said.
When she moved to Cambridge Avenue, she said, she went to the DMV and updated the address on her driver’s license. No one, she added, told her it was necessary to update the address on her car registration as well.
“I didn’t know you had to do that. I think it would be a good idea if, when you change your license address, you be informed by the DMV to change your car registration address,” Sanders said.
According to DMV regulations, a person who moves has 10 days to update addresses on all DMV documents.
City Parking Commissioner Kevin J. Helfer on Wednesday said all proper notification was made to Sanders.
“Our policy is that with any stolen vehicle, there is no storage fee for the first seven days. That is a reasonable time to be notified through the mail,” Helfer said.
He added that he is willing to compromise with Sanders and reduce the storage fee to the amount that was owed when she first made contact with the impound staff. That would mean Sanders owes $90 in towing and $125 in storage.
“I’m not looking for a handout. I’m willing to pay something,” Sanders said of the offer. “I can accept this compromise.”
The theft of her car, she said, almost ruined her career of a decade serving disabled people who need home health care. If not for Romeo Doyle, who loaned her his car, she said, she might have lost her livelihood.
“There are no buses that would take me close to my job. I’d have to walk about 90 minutes to get from Eastern Hills Mall to the house I work at in Clarence,” she said. “Romeo has had to take the bus to work. His job is in the city.”
Sanders says she hopes to put together enough money to take possession of her car soon.
“I can’t do it this week, because I have the money from my paycheck all planned out,” she said.