Pawnbroker rules under review

Posted: Wednesday, February 06, 2008

After careful consideration of comments from a Soldotna businessman, the Kenai Council tonight is slated to vote on a revised ordinance regulating pawnbrokers in the All-America City.

In December, the council heard from Soldotna pawnbroker Norm Blakeley, who was critical of numerous mandates in the proposed law establishing a licensing procedure for pawnbrokers and regulating how they conduct business.

Among other things, Blakeley wanted to know why Kenai planned to charge pawnbrokers a $100 business license fee when other businesses customarily are not charged a fee.

He also pointed out the ofttimes confidential nature of pawn transactions, asking why Kenai sought to have them be public records.

To help curb the illicit use of pawn shops as an avenue for disposing of stolen goods, Kenai Police Chief Chuck Kopp asked, in the original ordinance, that a customer be required to prove ownership of an article. The new version states: "A licensee may not purchase or pawn an article if the licensee has knowledge of facts that would create a belief in a reasonable man that the article may have been stolen, embezzled or otherwise illegally obtained" if the customer cannot prove ownership.

In testifying about the proposed ordinance late last year, Blakeley told the council yard sales are much more commonly used today as venues for fencing stolen goods. He asked if the city was planning to regulate yard sales as well as pawn shops.

The new version of the ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing tonight and is up for a vote for adoption.

The council also is expected to vote on adopting new international building codes into the city's municipal code.

City Manager Rick Koch said, "There are no big things that change the way we build things," but added the new codes call for mandatory placement of carbon monoxide detectors in all buildings, including all residences.

A $54,000 appropriation is on the agenda for the council's approval specifically for the purchase of more radio equipment for the fire department. The Department of Homeland Security grant requires a 5 percent city match, or $2,700, Koch said.

When asked about the continual requests for emergency communications equipment upgrades, Koch said he does not believe communications upgrades are ever complete because technology changes so rapidly.

Although ringing cell phones and similar interruptions from audience members attending city council meetings are infrequent if not nonexistent, the council will be voting on a resolution setting a policy that pagers, personal data assistants, cell and mobile phones and similar sound-producing electronic devices be turned off during meetings.

The council also is slated to hear presentations by Kenai Watershed Forum Executive Director Robert Ruffner on a proposed bird-viewing platform to be built near the Kenai boat launch, and by Lounsbury and Associates representative Tom Adams on the Wal-Mart project design.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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