AUGUSTA — Some Augusta business owners say proposed changes to the city’s pawnbroker ordinance, which would be expanded to apply to anyone in the business of selling nearly any secondhand items, would be a record-keeping and storage space nightmare that even could put them out of business.

The ordinance changes were proposed by police to allow them to be able to track stolen goods sold to such shops and bring charges against the people who steal and sell items.

The changes would require records to be kept of who sells and buys items from pawnshops, and that all items purchased be held for at least 15 days before they could be sold or disposed of. It also would expand the ordinance, which now applies only to pawnshops, to apply also to all shops, or people, who buy items in order to sell or trade them.

“This would tie my hands so I’m not able to do my business,” said Gary Leighton, owner of Uncle Gary’s Stuff, a secondhand shop at 2 Orchard St., behind Damon’s sandwich shop on Western Avenue. “I’m a one-man show. If I have to document everything I take out of a house, log it in and hold on to things for a couple of weeks, I have no place to hold it. I’m asking, before a decision is made, that we — business owners — could sit down with the council and perhaps Police Department to come up with something that makes a little more sense, so it doesn’t drive us out of here.”

Leighton said about 90 percent of the merchandise he deals in is furniture, much of it from auction or estate sales and bought from families who don’t know what to do with their late relatives’ items. He said he wouldn’t have enough space to meet the proposed new waiting period requirement, which would require secondhand shops to hold items for at least 15 days. He also said it seemed unlikely people would steal furniture to resell it to a secondhand shop.

Eric Rossingnol, owner of the Video Game Exchange on Water Street, said overall he was OK with the proposed ordinance changes but said he is concerned that it would apply to items that are traded, such as video games traded in by a young customer, for another video game. He said the 15-day waiting period would be a hassle, but not a nightmare, for him.


“Overall, it makes sense. I don’t have a big issue with it,” Rossingnol told city councilors last week in an initial discussion about the ordinance changes. “I’m concerned about the trading thing. If people are stealing someone’s stuff, they’re not trading it; they’re selling it.”

The proposed ordinance changes include an exception for secondhand items “of a mass manufacture process with no specific individual identifying feature, valued at or below $20,” as long as the total value of secondhand goods sold by the seller to the dealer within a 30-day period does not exceed $100.

Police Chief Robert Gregoire, in a memorandum to City Manager William Bridgeo, said the city’s current pawnbroker ordinance is “very limited,” with no waiting period or record keeping required for items to be bought and sold, and state law governing pawnbrokers governs only items that have been pawned, but not those that have just been bought to be resold. When an item is pawned, the person bringing the item in receives a loan, with the item pawned acting as security. If the person who pawned the item doesn’t repay the loan within a specified time, the pawnbroker may sell the item. However, many pawnshops also buy items to resell, paying cash for them.

The language under consideration is based on an ordinance already in place in Auburn.

Gregoire said because Auburn’s ordinance requires records of sales transactions to be documented, Augusta police were able to solve successfully thefts that occurred in Augusta because the culprits sold stolen merchandise to pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers in Auburn.

“The proposed ordinance change would allow the Augusta Police Department and other law enforcement agencies a better opportunity to investigate property crimes, locate stolen property and return it to the owners,” Gregoire wrote.


City officials acknowledged the first draft of the ordinance might be a bit too broad.

“We recognize there may be a broadness to the language and we need to massage it a little bit,” Mayor David Rollins said.

They’ll meet to discuss the ordinance and potential changes to it Thursday, in an informational meeting.

Councilors meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chamber at Augusta City Center. Councilors also are scheduled to:

• Discuss a proposed Augusta Housing Authority development on Maple Street;

• Discuss a proposed study of drainage problems on Windsor Avenue, in the Mayfair neighborhood;


• Discuss purchasing 115 Bridge St., an apartment building that abuts 117 Bridge St., which the city recently obtained because of nonpayment of taxes; and

• Meet in a closed-door session to discuss a personnel matter.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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