LITTLE VALLEY – About 25 people involved in the used goods and antique business appeared at a meeting of the Cattaraugus County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee meeting Wednesday night to register their opposition to a new county law aimed at stopping the flow of stolen goods.
Their voices were heard, and the law, which calls on businesses to keep careful track of goods they buy, could be on the way to repeal.
The law established procedures to be followed by second-hand dealers throughout the county to aid the Sheriff’s Office in recovering materials stolen in burglaries. It requires that when dealers buy goods, they must catalog, photograph and report the items to the Sheriff’s Office within a specific time frame.
The law also establishes that the items must be held by the dealer, in a separate area, away from sales areas and not be tampered with for a period of no less than 10 days. The arrangement would allow sheriff’s deputies time to check any items that match descriptions of items that may have been stolen.
The law’s provisions, among others, create problems for dealers in the antique industry, according to some of those in attendance Wednesday night. Dealers also take issue with the way the law was passed.
“We were not notified of the creation of this law,” said Otto Rhinehardt, owner of Antiques and Interiors of Great Valley.
“We would have helped if we had known about it. This law is unfair to the businesses and is a burden to the already overworked sheriff’s department.”
Not being informed was a key concern for many, who said they had no chance to voice their concerns with the language of the law, or even to offer assistance in the creation of a framework they could all work within.
County Attorney Thomas C. Brady and Legislator William J. Aiello, R-Olean, noted that public hearings were held prior to the adoption of the law.
Brady said the announcement was in both papers of record for the county two times before being adopted.
“I wish the people that had showed up tonight would have been there for the hearings,” Aiello said. “Having the voices of those involved in the process would have been a good thing.”
Shop owners, especially of businesses that house other, smaller vendors, either by consignment or by cooperative sales, said the law would create a business environment that would cause many of their vendors to take their wares and either move shops or close.
Dimitri Kolokouris, owner of the Salamanca Antique Mall, said vendors in his facility already have started to contact him about how the law will affect their shops.
“Many of the vendors have approached me, saying they would close up their spaces,” he said. “I would say about a quarter of them would close up. That would be a big hit to not only the antique mall but to the restaurants and hotels of Salamanca, and to Cattaraugus County tourism. The mall is the second [most] visited place in the city, only behind the casino.”
That view was echoed through out the room, as shop owners said they would lose vendors or would even have to close their own doors because of the financial constraints of the law.
Gary Hollamby, owner of Country Gentleman Antiques in Olean, said that based on the way the law is worded, if he bought an estate on a Saturday, he would have to have everything recorded, photographed and emailed to the Sheriff’s Office by 10 a.m. Tuesday.
“That would really limit my ability to make money,” he said. “To be able to store the merchandise for the 10 days would mean that I would have to build an addition onto my shop, meaning I would have to pay more. I would also have to pay more in insurance and in utilities. That would mean I would not be able to pay as much to my clients for good. This law would really hurt my business.”
As a result of the opposition to the law, legislators backed a resolution calling for its repeal. The resolution will be presented to the full County Legislature next Wednesday.
The process will take at least two meetings of the regularly convened Legislature, according to Brady, with passage of another local law to undo its provisions. A public hearing and final vote would be a month away, he said.