News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 3, 2010

Many 12 Points business owners seeking amendment to secondhand dealer ordinance

Business owners have more than 20 pages of signatures against ordinance

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Many business owners in Terre Haute’s 12 Points business district are hoping for a change in the city’s new secondhand merchants ordinance.

The ordinance, which took effect April 1, requires many secondhand merchants to report their purchases of used goods to police over the Internet on a daily basis. Supporters of the ordinance said it will help police recover stolen property.

The City Council will consider an amendment to the ordinance this month.

“I think the amendment [to the ordinance] is excellent,” said Jack Pigg, co-owner of M & J’s 12 Points Mall with his wife Myrna.

If passed by the council, the amendment, introduced by councilman John Mullican, D-6th, would add “consignment stores and the booth operators therein” to the list of businesses exempt from the secondhand dealer ordinance. M & J’s 12 Points Mall sells some items Pigg purchases himself for resale, but most of the merchandise in the shop is offered by other secondhand dealers renting booth space from the Piggs.

“We operate on a shoestring,” Jack Pigg said. “I don’t have the knowledge or money to do it over the computer.”

Another 12 Points business covered by the ordinance is The Sewing Lounge at 13th Street and Maple Avenue. The store offers secondhand clothing, including jeans, shirts and T-shirts. Under the ordinance, stores selling secondhand clothing are required to make daily Internet reports to police.

“That’s dramatic hours [of additional work] for me,” said Juanita Parkhurst, owner of the Sewing Lounge. She often purchases garbage bags full of worn clothing each day, she said. The ordinance requires her to describe each item she purchases, a physical description of the seller as well as the seller’s name, address and date of birth.

“I’ve got to buy a new computer,” Parkhurst said. “I already work 12 hours a day. We’re barely making it as it is.”

Parkhurst, Pigg and other business owners in 12 Points say they understand the goal of the ordinance. However, they believe common sense usually enables them to know when someone is trying to sell them stolen property.

Secondhand dealers also face a risk in buying anything stolen, Pigg noted. If the police later confiscate stolen property from his store, he is not reimbursed for the price he paid for it, he said.

“I think we just ought to have to register new things” with police, Parkhurst said. Even if someone takes the price tag off of a new piece of clothing, “you can tell if it’s been worn or not,” she said.

Rich Curtis, president of the 12 Points Greater Northside Association, would like to see the entire secondhand ordinance repealed. However, in the near term, he supports Mullican’s amendment.

As of Thursday, Curtis and other 12 Points business owners had collected more than 20 pages of a petition against the new ordinance. Each page had space for 26 signatures.

The City Council passed the secondhand merchants ordinance, which also included reporting requirements for scrap metal dealers, in February by a 5-4 vote. The next City Council meeting, at which Mullican’s amendment will be introduced, is set for April 8. Actual voting on the amendment could take place as soon as April 15.

Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.