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Council readies new rules for pawnbrokers / November 01, 2012
South Boston Town Council on Monday night took a first step towards requiring pawnbrokers and others who sell second-hand goods to submit daily electronic reports, giving local police greater ability to track stolen goods.

The proposed amendment to the Town Code was approved by Council’s Current Issues Committee and matches language in the state code which was recently updated. According to South Boston Police Chief Jim Binner, the change will help his department monitor goods which pawnshops may be reselling.

The committee, headed by Councilman Bob Hughes, also recommended that an application by Jackie Bowey to operate a taxicab service be brought before Council next Monday evening. Council members were advised that Bowey previously operated a similar service in the town for more than nine years, but had not renewed her certificate when it expired in 2010. Currently no cab companies operate in South Boston.

If approved, the company will be named “Jackie’s Cab” and will operate from 210 Factory Street and will be available to travel in the county as well as in the town.

Binner, who has investigated the qualifications of the applicant, recommended that the certificate be issued. A public hearing will be held next Monday evening before Council takes formal action on the request.

The issue that drew the most discussion, however, is one that will not be on the agenda for next Monday’s Council meeting. Staff members had recommended that term limits for groups such as the Town Planning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals be eliminated.

Town Manager Ted Daniel pointed to the time commitment that members make to serve on committees, including travel to Richmond for two days of training to serve on the Planning Commission. He added that planners are encouraged to read some five books dealing with their responsibilities and then later return to Richmond for more discussion on their assignment.

Daniel, citing the loss of experience and the expense of training new members that would arise with term limits, recommended that proposal be dropped.

Daniel pointed out that the terms of two Planning Commission members, Harriett Claiborne and Fields Thomas, expire at the end of this year, with both having served the maximum of three terms, or 12 years.

But Councilman Morris Bryant retorted that 12 years is a long time to serve and other citizens may want the opportunity to serve. Councilman Ed Owens was quick to agree: “We need to get more people involved; it’s ridiculous to have people serving 20-25 years as they have done in the past,” said Owens. “We need to be more inclusive and get new people interested. It just doesn’t make common sense” to drop term limit requirements.

Councilman Bill Snead added that he wants to see new, fresh voices in the town’s planning process, and Council member Tina Younger said those who want to volunteer might be discouraged by having to wait for others to retire in order to make a place for themselves.

Owens suggested that Council “hold off” on a decision to reject or adopt term limits until new candidates can be identified to fill the positions.

Following a closed session of Council, two members were named to represent the Town on the newly formed Joint Library Committee. Council named Ed Owens and Bill Snead to join with two members of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors and two members of Halifax Town Council on the panel, which is tasked with making recommendations about the future of the two local libraries.

Another discussion on Monday night centered around whether Council wants to establish roundabouts at several points on Hamilton Boulevard. Highway department officials have indicated that signal lights will not be approved for the intersections at Hamilton and Houghton and Hamilton and Parker Avenue. Another roundabout might be placed at the intersection of North Main and Hamilton.

Allen Auld advised that the Town has some $500,000 in the budget that can be spent on upgrades to Hamilton, and VDOT would approve revenue sharing funds for roundabouts if Council supports the idea.

Snead said he had found the use of roundabouts to be very beneficial, but others feared that the local population is so unaccustomed to them that the number of accidents might rise. The majority of Council expressed the feeling that the $500,000 could be better used to four-lane parts of Hamilton.

Daniel also sought the approval of Council in transferring some $80,257.75 to the budget for Washington-Coleman Center, with the money coming from the parks and recreation contingency and the general contingency funds. The transfer will give the town enough money to accept a low bid of $944,397 for work on the center to McDannald Construction Company.

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The best and most obvious solution to monitoring pawnshops is to never allow them in the first place. Every time one opens, that's one more place for stolen property to end up.

Especially in the case of easily identifiable jewelry, do you really think any pawnshop is going to wait the required time before melting it down? Once it's melted, no evidence. No evidence, no crime. No crime, no conviction. Anyone who has unappraised precious metals stolen has no recourse for their loss, because no insurance company will pay off without an appraisal. Ask me how I know.

Don't bother telling me pawnshops serve a purpose for people to raise quick emergency cash. As long as precious metals trade as high as they currently do, pawnshops and quick-cash-for-gold jewelers are nothing but an enabler for burglary and theft. By allowing them, local governments and law enforcement are complicit.

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