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Willmar, Minn., City Council OKs hike to electronic pawn transaction fee

WILLMAR — The Willmar City Council will be increasing the fee charged to local pawn brokers for entering transaction information into a statewide computer network used by law enforcement agencies to check for stolen property.

The council approved a resolution Tuesday night increasing the fee from $1.10 to $1.40 per pawn transaction reported to the automated pawn system.

The resolution requires Police Chief David Wyffels to notify in writing all pawn businesses subject to the system of the increase.

The system was developed by the Minneapolis Police Department in the mid-1990s and started in 1997 to replace an increasing number of paper transaction reports.

Wyffels said Willmar joined the system in April 2006. At that time, the fee was $1.50 per transaction, with Minneapolis receiving $1 and Willmar retaining 50 cents. In 2010, Minneapolis reduced the fee from $1 to 60 cents and the savings were passed directly back to local business owners, Wyffels said.

This year, Willmar received notice that Minneapolis was increasing its portion from 60 cents to 90 cents per transaction. Wyffels recommended Willmar’s fee be increased to $1.40 per transaction, with 90 cents forwarded to Minneapolis and Willmar continuing to retain 50 cents.

Wyffels said his department had been receiving files of handwritten reports from the pawn shops. Wyffels said the automated system can instantly sort requests for information by description, location and suspect.

“You see how much broader our ability is to attempt to track and locate stolen items,’’ said Wyffels. He said the staff-time saved is immense. “It’s a better system, definitely worth the money.’’

The increase was recommended by the Finance Committee.

Council member Steve Ahmann said a pawn shop owner had asked him why jewelry stores are not required to report purchases of gold or silver items brought in by customers.

To the best of his knowledge, Wyffels said, the police department has not discovered any stolen items coming through on that point of sale. He said it seems most of what is being sold is wedding bands and some watches by people mainly in their 60s.

As for the fairness issue, Wyffels said the council can decide whether or not to impose that type of reporting system on other stores. Wyffels said he has not heard anything that indicates other businesses in town have been in the practice of accepting stolen property.

“I don’t know if there’s a need there,’’ he said.

In other action, the council:

- Approved the mayoral appointments of Suzanne Nelsen to the Pioneerland Library System Board; and Gary Gilman and Robert Enos to the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission Operations Board.

- Presented a certificate of recognition to the Kandiyohi County Area Family YMCA in appreciation to the YMCA and its $3 million capital campaign to expand its 2002 building.

- Ratified adding a provision to the Public Employees Retirement Association’s Statewide Volunteer Firefighter Retirement Plan. The provision allows benefits to be paid to survivors of firefighters who die within their first five years of service. The Legislature will be asked to approve the provision if all 63 fire departments in the plan also approve the provision.

- Voted to hold a public hearing Feb. 19 to receive comments on the Lakeland Drive interceptor sewer facility plan and environmental impact worksheet.

- Appointed council member Jim Dokken and retired parks and recreation director Dale Johnson to a committee to promote the Willmar War Memorial Auditorium and the 1938 mural painted by Richard Haines in the war memorial room.

- Appointed Fire Chief/Fire Marshal Gary Hendrickson as the city’s emergency operations coordinator.

- Appointed judges for the Ward 4 special election Feb. 12.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150