A proposed Kansas City, Missouri City Council ordinance that would provide more regulation for salvage yards, towing services, and secondary metal recyclers has been delayed for a month, as representatives on both sides of the issue work to collaborate on language that’s amenable to all.
First District Councilman Scott Wagner is sponsoring Ordinance No. 180606, picking up where he left off five years ago, when similar legislation failed to generate traction at City Hall. The ordinance was introduced during the Neighborhoods and Public Safety committee meeting on August 22, drawing strong support from neighborhood leaders concerned primarily about the theft of vehicles and precious metals.
While those neighborhood leaders were heavily involved in the process this time around, Wagner conceded after the August 22 meeting that representatives from the scrapping industry were not looped in during the development of the ordinance.
“The way we did it this time was we kind of came forward with an ordinance,” Wagner said. “When we did this five years ago, we did several meetings with the industry before submitting the ordinance.”
Wagner indicated that neighborhood leaders have since met with several representatives from the recycling industry for preliminary conversations. That process will now ramp up over the next month, as meetings are currently in the process of being scheduled.
One of the primary goals of Ordinance No. 180606 is to dissuade scrappers from attempting to make quick money by stealing copper and other valuable metals from Kansas City homes. To achieve this objective, Wagner has proposed a hold window between the time someone drops metal off at a salvage yard and the time the payment is distributed.
“We go from the presumption that easy cash makes it easier for people to scrap, and therefore damage homes and pull copper,” Wagner said. “What we have suggested is that instead of getting cash the day of, that you actually are paid by check three days later.”
Other objectives of the ordinance relate to the towing and scrapping of vehicles. Cpl. Nate Bradley of the Missouri Highway Patrol detailed on August 22 how some vehicles are scrapped immediately following a vehicle sale. As evidence that more stringent regulations are required, Bradley pointed to a 61% increase in auto theft since 2011, along with an estimate that $800,000 worth of cars have been scrapped since 2012.
To curb that trend, minimum penalties associated with those in violation of the motor vehicle portion of Ordinance No. 180606 would be increased from $50 to $200, with the maximum fine rising from $500 to $1,000.
Some members from the industry testified during the September 12 meeting, including Dennis Roberts, General Manager of All-N-1-U Pull Metal and Recycling (2408 Blue Ridge Blvd.). Roberts requested to be involved in the upcoming meetings, and noted that his customers with low incomes often need cheaper car parts to get their vehicles up and running. Roberts added that his company does run Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) checks to make sure the cars they purchase for scrap aren’t stolen, and don’t have liens on them.
Still, Roberts said that many cars brought into his yard aren’t accompanied by titles.
“We take 6,000 cars a year, and half of them are cars with no titles on them,” Roberts said.
Fourth District Councilwoman Katheryn Shields responded, suggested that Ordinance No. 180606 doesn’t ask recycling companies to do anything other than what Roberts described as a standard operation procedure at All-N-1-U Pull Metal and Recycling.
“I think the system that you follow is what my colleague is advocating that we put in place as a requirement for all businesses,” Shields said.
Others who testified on September 19 underscored the need for new regulations in the scrapping industry, especially regarding the recycling of precious metals – or non-ferrous metals, as they are referred to in the industry – such as gold, silver, copper, brass, aluminum, platinum, bronze, lead, zinc, nickel and their alloys.
Former KCMO Councilman John Sharp pointed to the stripping of copper as one the most common issues that he’s seen throughout the city. The impact on homeowners can be devastating.
“You may get $100 worth of copper, but you do thousands of dollars worth of damage,” Sharp said.
Salvador Lopez from the Guadalupe Centers location at 15th and Van Brunt relayed a recent incident in which thieves broke into the facility to remove copper, causing thousands of dollars of damage in the process.
“Luckily, the cops were able to catch them on scene,” Lopez said. “I just want to make you guys aware of that, and to share that.”
Over the next month, stakeholders on all sides of the issue will work on a solution to the scrapping issues facing Kansas City neighborhoods. Wagner suggested on September 12 that all input will be considered as the final ordinance is crafted.