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Secondhand sales (copy)

Several downtown Baraboo stores, including Back Door Antiques on Third Street, posted flyers last fall objecting to revision of a city ordinance governing the sale of secondhand goods. Tempers cooled once many learned they were unaffected by the changes, and city leaders worked with affected merchants to establish a fair annual license fee.

News Republic file photo

Baraboo is set to charge its secondhand stores an annual fee to pay for an anti-theft program.

On Monday, the Common Council’s Administrative Committee voted 3-0 to recoup the $2,200 annual cost of Leads Online through annual fees, rather than charging secondhand stores a per-transaction fee. The committee’s recommendation will go to the full council next week.

The committee recommended charging secondhand stores the existing $27-$30 fee for this year and absorbing the anti-theft program’s cost. In future years, merchants will face a fee of $300-$600, depending on how many seek licenses. Leads Online’s cost will be divided evenly among those stores.

“I think that’s the fair thing,” said council and committee member John Alt.

Officials are updating city code in conjunction with switching to a new tracking system. It will monitor sales of several items often associated with theft, helping police catch the criminals, as well as protect victims and merchants who run pawn and resale shops. The Administrative Committee previously recommended charging merchants 45 cents per transaction, but Spin Shack owner Tiffany Opperman convinced them an annual permit fee would be fairer to a business like hers that conducts many transactions in small amounts.

She thanked the committee for reconsidering its original stance, and lobbied for a low annual license price. “Joe Blow isn’t going to want to start a secondhand store in Baraboo if the fee is too high,” she said.

That amount is undetermined because the city doesn’t know how many stores require the license. Only one merchant paid for a license last year. The highest number on record is four in 2013. City police estimate another seven merchants may need licenses because they buy items from the public that require tracking.

Police Chief Mark Schauf said he “dropped the ball” on enforcement. When the officer assigned to monitoring secondhand sales left the department, that duty wasn’t reassigned. “We just haven’t been aggressively trying to pursue those licenses,” he said.

Police and other city staff will work to determine how many city shops require licenses. Meanwhile, the council will update its ordinance to match state law, including making secondhand sales licenses effective Jan. 1. City leaders’ goal is to have the license process and fee amount nailed down by November, when it crafts its 2019 budget.

“We’ve got a lot of cleanup to do,” said council and committee member John Ellington.

Follow Ben Bromley on Twitter @ben_bromley