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Commissioners question need for pawnshop rules

Board expected to vote on fire stations at Thursday meeting

POSTED: March 11, 2013 11:30 p.m.

Hall County Commissioners fanned flames that they expect to vote to bid out two new fire stations and a fire truck at Thursday’s meeting.

Fire issues were one part of an agenda that also included possible new rules on pawn, jewelry and secondhand dealers and getting intergovernmental agreements with all the cities in Hall County to charge solid waste fees.

Commissioner Scott Gibbs also discussed paying for city water lines in at least two neighborhoods off Highland Road in his district during Monday’s work session.

Fire insurance premiums have doubled in those subdivisions and many residents are on wells, he said.

Homeowners would pay off the cost through their tax bills. Hall County is planning to buy two pieces of land to relocate a fire station from Short Road and build a new station. The properties the county has been working to buy are in North Hall, but the deals aren’t final or public.

Commissioner Billy Powell said finished purchase agreements could happen by the time bids come back. Buying a new fire truck can take a year or more.

In other business, some of the commissioners closely questioned the need for customers of pawnbrokers, jewelry dealers and secondhand stores to be fingerprinted and photographed as part of a pawn or sale transaction.

The pawnshops and precious metal dealers in the county would be required under two proposed resolutions to take a fingerprint and photograph of a customer who is not a wholesaler or a manufacturer that is selling or getting a loan on merchandise.

The items would have to be uploaded to a national database where police agencies can search for stolen items.

The store owners would pay $15 for an annual business permit, which is what county business owners pay now for a business license, and undergo a criminal background check. The dealers would have to hold the merchandise for 30 days, which is a change for jewelry buyers, who by state law, have to wait seven days after a purchase.

Consignment shops would be exempted.

“Who’s the criminal, is what I’m trying say,” said Commissioner Craig Lutz. “Do I get to stand in a lineup or anything.”

Lutz objected that the public would have to give some personal information, including fingerprint, photo, sex and weight. Lt. Ken Neece, head of property crimes in the Hall County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division, said the laws were critical because the level of thefts is dramatically increasing. He said the process was no less intrusive to someone doing a transaction at a bank.

“Most people aren’t outraged at having to do that at the bank,” Neece said.

Lutz said it would make him, using the example of pawning his mother-in-law’s Christmas present, feel like a criminal.

Neece said the regulations would help authorities track down the thief, no matter who sells the item at store. The dealers pay for law enforcement access through a small fee added on to each transaction.

Gibbs said he didn’t think it would be effective unless everyone in the state was on the database.

Chairman Richard Mecum said the county has opened itself for stolen goods because of a lack of a law. He praised Neece for his work. Commissioners are expected to take up the issue on Thursday.

“It’s got to start somewhere,” Mecum said.


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