ST. LOUIS — The traffic sign outside Noah Butler’s apartment makes it perfectly clear.
For three and a half hours on the second Monday of each month, you can’t park in the 3100 block of Halliday Avenue because of street cleaning.
But having moved to St. Louis in the last year, Butler admits the restriction was easy to forget.
“This is all new to us. I’ve never heard of not being able to park on your street for more than three hours per month. That’s crazy,” he told 5 On Your Side.
So, the parking tickets on his window started to add up. He got four in all.
“It ended up being $380 after the penalties. I didn’t know they tripled here. I’ve never had a parking ticket,” he said.
But he claimed he couldn’t pay them on time because he recently lost his job and was trying to save money.
Then, on Sept. 10, Butler said he and his wife watched as a city tow truck took his only way of getting around away.
He said, “We just had to watch my car get towed off. That whole day was miserable, absolutely miserable.”
The next day didn’t get any better. Butler said he got even more miserable news when he went to the city tow lot to retrieve his SUV.
“You don’t think of that as a possibility, that your car will be totaled,” he explained.
According to St. Louis Police, the city’s tow truck that was carrying Butler’s car was involved in a hit and run crash on Interstate 70. The driver of the truck was even sent to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries.
Unfortunately for Butler, his SUV took much of the impact and was completely totaled.
“No one told me. I never got a phone call,” he said.
What followed, Butler claimed, was a lot of red tape and back and forth with the city counselor’s office over who’s at fault.
He wondered, “How could a city take your car, then total it. And get away with it? They should 100 percent be liable.”
All the while, Butler said every day he was being charged a $25 storage fee for about two months. That means to get his car out of the city storage lot, he would have had to pay about $1,500.
“We were just wondering what are we going to do? We don’t have the money to pay for this,” he said.
At first, Butler said the manager of the lot told him the city would take care of the damage.
“He was like 'Don’t worry, the city will take care of you. The city has your back. This is such an inconvenience for you and we apologize truly,'” he said,
But then he got a letter from the city counselor’s office that told a different story.
“They said they weren’t liable for any of the damage,” Butler said.
So what reason did the city give? According to the letter, the city is denying any liability for his damaged car because the crash is considered a hit and run.
And police reports obtained by 5 On Your Side back that up. According to investigators, the city tow truck and Butler’s SUV were hit from behind by a car that fled the scene.
Now, Butler said he is left with no car and no confidence in the city he and his wife just started to call home. They question whether towing so aggressively over a few unpaid parking tickets was worth everything that followed in their case.
“They got your back. No, they don’t got your back. I don’t know that towing your car should be necessary for parking your car in front of your own home,” Butler said.
He added that his insurance is expected to cover the loss, but that the payout won’t be much because the older model SUV was paid off and isn’t worth much with so much extensive damage.
He said the city has decided to waive the mounting storage fee as a gesture of goodwill. And his lesson for other city drivers? Make sure you pay your parking tickets on time and obey the posted traffic signs in your neighborhood.