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Milton considering resale shop rule

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
December 21, 2011
— It was a typical Tuesday afternoon at Greater Midwest Trading in Milton.

A line of four customers waited for service at the coin, jewelry and antique resale shop at 209 Parkview Drive. Three more came in the door.


One customer bought a proof set of coins. Another sold owner Lynda Hakala some oddball change he'd collected over the years.


Each transaction took just minutes, but Hakala was so busy that she didn't have time to chat.


Yet, under a proposed city ordinance on pawn brokers and resale shops unveiled Tuesday, Hakala would have to enter an electronic record of every transaction with customers that sell her coins, jewelry or valuables—including a digital photo of the items and a detailed account of the customer's identification—immediately, during each transaction.


Milton Police Chief Dan Layber, who presented the ordinance to the city council Tuesday, said the department wants it put in place to help law enforcement track stolen merchandise that can find its way into the local resale market.


"It's to prevent hopefully, people form pawning items that don't belong to them," Layber said. "If they do, it's a method for us to track them down and take the proper legal action."


The proposed ordinance mirrors a state statute. Some other area communities, such as Janesville, have similar policies on the books.


Some Milton resale businesses work under federal requirements for registering resale items, but the city has none of its own regulations on the books. One resale shop only requires customers selling goods to provide their phone number.


The ordinance would require resale shops to electronically register identification of customers who sell them jewelry, electronics, guns and other valuables and put a 14-day hold on re-selling them.


The information would be put in the Northeast Wisconsin Property Recovery System, a statewide database used to track stolen goods.


Although the ordinance was only up for a first reading Tuesday, the council appeared poised to rush it into effect.


Alderman David Adams, who attended the meeting by phone, made a motion to waive a second and third reading on the ordinance, which would have put it in place Tuesday.


But the council backed off and scheduled the ordinance for more review in January after Hakala, who was at the meeting Tuesday, urged the city to examine the plan's effect on local resale shops.


Hakala agreed there should be a system in place to safeguard against the sale of stolen items, but she asked the council to amend the part of the ordinance requiring electronic records to be entered during customer transactions.


She said she normally collects most of the information the city would require during transactions, but there's no way she could ask a line of people to wait while she puts it all in an electronic database.


"I'd have to close my doors," Hakala said. "There'd be no way."


She also argued against a 14-day hold on reselling items, citing a state statute that says she is exempt.


"I'm a coin dealer. I can't hold precious coins that long. The market is too volatile," she said.


Dennis "Reno" Garthwaite, owner of the gun shop Thunder Shooting Supplies, said the ordinance would cost him time and money. He said he had heard of Janesville's similar policy.


"I was hoping they wouldn't do that here," he said.


Garthwaite's store at 24 Front St. buys and sells about a dozen used guns a week.


Garthwaite understands the need for law enforcement to track stolen items, especially guns, but he already does most of the reporting described in the ordinance on paper to meet federal gun registration requirements.


Garthwaite said he or his two part-time employees would have to duplicate that work to satisfy the city's electronic registration requirements.


"I understand you want to get your stolen things back, but it's a paperwork nightmare," Garthwaite said. "It's just going to add to costs."


Having a 14-day hold on used guns also would put a dent in his cash flow, he said.


Another Milton business that could be affected by the ordinance is The Corner Closet Consignment Resale Shop at 251 Parkview Drive, Milton.


Some used items for sale there include jewelry, small electronics, DVDs and video games—all items that would require electronic registry under the ordinance.


The Corner Closet resells on commission used items that clients bring in. Clients are paid when their items sell. According to clerks at the shop, current policy there only requires a client's phone number to open a consignment account.


Store owner Beth Marquart was unavailable Tuesday for comment on the shop's policies or how the new ordinance could affect store operations.



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