Council passes first reading of pawnshop regulations

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Some local pawnshop owners still have a fight for "a level playing field" on their hands, scooter riders will need to buy helmets and know the roads on which they can drive and those younger than 21 will still be allowed in bars after 10 p.m. for at least some time to come after Monday night's meeting of the Cape Girardeau city council.

Council members unanimously approved the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would require use of Leads Online, a merchandise tracking system that is run by the Cape Girardeau Police Department, despite the calls of unfairness by local pawnshop owners and their staff for exclusion of jewelry, antique and several other types of resale businesses and services by the city in the now-revised proposal.

"It seems like it's selective enforcement to me," said Frank Mabry, owner of Plaza Pawn in Cape Girardeau.

City manager Scott Meyer, police chief Roger Fields and council members counter that data reviewed by city staff showed pawnshops were more likely to be targets for attempted sales of stolen items and that clientele is different for jewelry stores and other excluded businesses and services because they often only buy from repeat customers. The original proposal included more types of businesses and services until the city bowed to an appeal from several local store owners and exempted them the from rules. The ordinance now would apply to pawnbrokers and other types of recyclers, second-hand dealers and junk/scrap dealers, but not to jewelry stores, antique stores, coin stores, second-hand clothing stores, gun and knife shows and auction or asset-liquidation services selling the contents of an estate -- as long as those businesses had a business license before Monday.

One of the business owners, Jay Crosnoe of Crosnoe Gold and Silver, thanked the city during the meeting for making changes. He said he plans to use the tracking system as needed, even though it wouldn't be required by a new ordinance.

"It's a positive thing that could help us," he said.

Crosnoe said his store now has no recourse in the case it buys stolen merchandise and use of Leads Online would help that. Stores would have to keep records of all sellers' physical descriptions along with their driver's license number and photographs of items if the ordinance is given final approval at the council's Nov. 19 meeting. Penalty for non-compliance with the ordinance could result in a business losing its license.

Helmets required

Starting on Nov. 16, all operators of scooters, also known as motorized bicycles, will be required to wear a helmet, travel only on city streets with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less and purchase insurance. Other safety rules will also apply, such as riding with legs on both sides of the vehicle while seated and keeping both hands on handlebars. Fines for non-compliance range from $5 to $25 depending on the violation. Anyone younger than 17 caught violating the ordinance could have the scooter impounded for up to five days.

Scooters are defined by the state as "any two-wheeled or three-wheeled device having an automatic transmission and a motor with cylinder capacity of not more than 50 cubic centimeters, which produces less than three gross brake horsepower, and is capable of propelling the device at a maximum speed of not more than 30 mph on level ground."

Councilman Trent Summers was the only council member to vote against the ordinance. He has said that he believes the helmet requirement is an infringement of rights. Councilman John Voss proposed an amendment to the final version Monday that would have changed the roads on which scooters are allowed to have a 30 mph speed limit, but the amendment failed 4-3 with "no" votes from councilmembers Mark Lanzotti, Loretta Scheider, Summers and Mayor Harry Rediger. No one from the public appeared to speak against or in support of the ordinance.

The issue was brought to the council in October following the death of Southeast Missouri State University student Meg Herndon from a scooter-vehicle crash and reports from the Cape Girardeau Police Department and the university on the number of crashes involving scooters in recent years. An online survey taken this month by the city showed respondents favored new safety rules for scooters.

Another topic discussed by the council Monday that users of an online survey do not favor is the idea there could soon be more rules in place dealing with alcohol enforcement. As a result of that survey and for several other reasons, movement toward passing an ordinance that would prohibit patrons under the age of 21 from being in bars or restaurants that derive more than 35 percent of their proceeds from alcohol after 10 p.m. has come to a standstill. More than 300 people took the survey. Meyer said the responses indicate heavy opposition to any new ordinances dealing with alcohol.

The ordinance passed its first reading by a 5-2 vote during the Oct. 15 council meeting. Since then, too many questions and issues have come up about the ordinance's potential effects on businesses, their patrons and law enforcement for the city to continue considering passing the proposal as-is, according to Meyer.

"Maybe we are going somewhere we shouldn't," said Rediger, after Meyer finished going through a long list of potential problems with the ordinance during the Monday study session. The city isn't sure, for example, how to apply regulations to businesses when percentages of their alcohol sales as total profit fluctuate from month to month, or if the age restrictions should apply in the case of events, some of which the city hosts.

Several councilmembers, including Lanzotti, still want to see the ordinance passed because they say issues that come up can be solved as they arise and they feel it will help curb underage drinking.

"This is a problem that needs addressing," he said. "It's a problem in every college town."

For now, the council plans to discuss the ordinance again during the study session at its next meeting. It will not, however, be placed on the agenda any time soon for further consideration, according to Meyer.

Councilmembers during the course of the discussion also weighed whether enacting more severe penalties on establishments found serving alcohol to minors would help prevent underage drinking.

Also discussed briefly during the study session was a possible extension of operating hours for local bars to 3 a.m. instead of 1:30 a.m., although Meyer said he does not believe that right now a change could draw enough support from council members.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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