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Council holds on copper theft ordinance

By Peter Teske

JULY 27, 2011



Despite an effort to push an amendment to the city's copper ordinance through a public safety committee meeting and City Council all in one morning, Mobile is still without a tougher non-ferrous metal ordinance.

The amendment, which would require junk dealers to pay copper sellers via bank draft, passed through the public safety committee with support from City Councilmen Fred Richardson and Jermaine Burrell. But fellow committee member, Councilman John Williams, withheld a vote on the matter at today's council meeting, noting further research would be required by the police department to get a meaningful ordinance signed into law. He also said he'd like to add an amendment to see small-time sellers required to have a business license.

Mobile Police Department Chief Deputy Chief Lester Hargrove and Deputy Chief James Barber said the amendment is intended to be more of a deterrent than an ordinance that would be enforced heavily. The hope is such an ordinance would help calm a rash of copper theft throughout the city.

Lee Leavitt of ASM Recycling, a large capacity scrap metal yard company with locations in Mobile and Montgomery, said administering a system that required writing checks as little at 60 cents could be an impediment to some small scrap yards' ability to do business.

Leavitt as well as a handful of others representing scrap metal yards around Mobile also desired a level playing field, making the ordinance apply to Mobile County as well. If that action were to not accompany the tougher ordinance, scrap yards within the city of Mobile would be put at a distinct disadvantage, he said.

The Mayor's Office this morning also presented a request via resolution addressed to the Alabama State Legislature that would make the bank draft requirement applicable across Mobile County. The matter was laid over along with the mayor's copper proposal. The earliest the state legislature could act on any such request would be their next regular session or if it were added to the agenda of any special session held before.

Currently scrap yards within the city collect copies of individuals' driver licenses, tag plates, photos of vehicles from surveillance cameras along with a bevy of other proofs of identification.

Under the proposed ordinance as it stands, copper sellers would wait between three to five days until they got a check for their wares.

Barber said the wait alone is a disincentive to a drug addicts the ordinance targets.
"Someone on drugs isn't going to wait like that," he said.

Sagging and Curfew Ordinances laid over
Two other proposed ordinances brought before the council this morning by Mayor Jones were laid over for a later vote as well.

A much-discussed teen curfew as well as an ordinance aimed at stopping "sagging," a practice among many young men of letting their pants hang off their backsides, were both laid over pending more discussion.

They will be brought back before the council Aug. 16.

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What should be Mayor-elect Stimpson's top priority?

Examining the budget.
Evaluating city employees.
Addressing public safety issues.
Improving infrastructure.
Free fish plates.

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