Junkyard Owner Questions Second-Hand Dealer Status

The Londonderry Town Council has postponed a decision on a local metal recycling firm’s status, while reviewing an extensive information packet from the owner and his legal counsel.

In the June 20 meeting, the Council heard from Patricia Panciocco, an Auburn-based attorney representing Vito Solimini, owner of S&S Metals on Rockingham Road. Solimini was also present along with Bruce Crawford, executive director of the Auto and Truck Recyclers of New Hampshire.

At issue is the town’s requirement that Solimini register as a second-hand dealer along with his regular junkyard license. The ordinance is Title IV, Chapter XII, Secondhand Dealers and Pawnbrokers License.

“This license is duplicative,” Panciocco said. “It allows him to do what he is already allowed to do according to RSA 3:22.”

Panciocco, representing Solimini, asked that the ordinance be amended to exclude scrap metal and vehicle parts.

Panciocco added, “This ordinance is an unreasonable burden with no corresponding public benefit.”

The ordinance in a nutshell, according to Panciocco, imposes “one size fits all” requirements on pawnbrokers, secondhand dealers and scrap metal dealers. But they are all different entities, Panciocco maintained. Pawnbrokers are strictly regulated according to RSA 398-A, and secondhand dealers generally do not deal in scrap metals.

While the ordinance was created in part to deal with the theft and resale of scrap metal, such as copper piping from construction lots, Panciocco pointed out that while pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers work mostly consumer to consumer, S&S is 75 percent business to business.

Crawford said the real problem with metal theft is precious metals, antique jewelry and the like, and not scrap metal repurposed for recycling purposes. Further, Crawford said, the commodity price for scrap metals has dropped sharply.

In addition to Londonderry, only Manchester and Nashua include scrap metal in their ordinances, and Nashua exempts business-to-business.

“At the end of the day, someone could steal scrap metal in Londonderry and go across the line to Derry and sell it,” Panciocco observed.

Crawford, also a member of the Commission to Study the Regulation of Pawnbrokers, Secondhand Dealers and Junk or Scrap Metal Dealers, authorized by the Legislature in 2015,  said, “You can’t regulate yard sales or flea markets.” And, he said, “Thieves are not dumb.”

In recent years, according to Crawford, many metal thefts were “crimes of desperation, by otherwise hardworking folks.” Others were crimes of opportunity, when a house lot was left unguarded. But the scrap market is flat now, he said, and with the economy better, there’s not as much risk.

Also, Crawford said, not just anybody can steal metal. “It takes work,” he said. “You need the tools of the trade.”

Crawford said, “We recently went through this in Rochester. They dropped the scrap metal part of the ordinance.”

In addition, he said, with auto parts harvested for scrap, there is a paper trail. And most dealers “don’t have a problem reporting parts that come into the shop.”

Crawford concluded, “We want scrap metal to be exempt.”

Chairman John Farrell said, “We vetted this ordinance six months ago, and nobody came in.” The Council needs time to review Panciocco’s inch-thick packet, he said, and to discuss the issue with Town Manager Kevin Smith and Police Chief Bill Hart.

“We will not make a decision tonight,” Farrell said.

In other junkyard-related business, the Council reviewed a request to remove Social Security numbers from the town’s junkyard license application. The License Renewal Application is part of the Junkyard Dealers Ordinance in the Municipal Code, Title IV, Chapter IV. All Londonderry junkyards must be licensed by July 1. Building Inspector Richard Canuel wrote in a memo, “The application presently requires the applicant to include their Date of Birth and Social Security number. That information has no relevance to the approval of a renewal license.”

Canuel provided a draft application form for the Council’s consideration. The Council agreed to waive a first reading and to have a second reading and public hearing in its July 11 meeting.

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