Pawn America's operations under review in West Allis

July 14, 2014

West Allis —After fielding several complaints from neighbors, West Allis officials say they are reviewing a pawn store's operations plan and hope to have a permanent remedy in place within the next month.

The Common Council's License and Health Committee discussed the future of Pawn America, which operates a popular store at 7530 W. Lincoln Ave. Pawn America has two licenses due for renewal – one to sell secondhand jewelry and another to operate as a pawn dealer within the city.

Last month, residents came before the council and asserted Pawn America's customers have cut through their yards, urinated on garages, parked them in their own driveways and created an overall unsafe environment.

Alderpersons Martin Weigel and Cathleen Probst on Tuesday said they met with store personnel and concerned residents in an attempt toward striking a balance. Weigel and Probst represent the second aldermanic district where Pawn America is located.

"I just think they're doing too much business there," Weigel said at the License and Health Committee this week. "It's a case of putting 10 pounds into a 5-pound bag."

From his dialogue with Pawn America personnel, Weigel said company officials stated the Lincoln Avenue site has done 50 percent more in business than anticipated since the store began operations two years ago.

For the time being, Pawn America is being permitted to operate in West Allis under its old permit. Weigel said a long-term operations plan is being reviewed before a new permit is considered.

"We're going to have to have a sit-down with the city attorney," Martin said to other members of the License and Health Committee. "Right now, we have a lot of things on the table with them."

The goal, Weigel said, is to have that long-term plan in place in August.

Based on his meeting with Pawn America representatives, Weigel said he has received assurances greater security measures will be put into place. He said a security guard will have a presence at the store shortly before the store opens and for about an hour after the store closes.

Other security enhancements planned at the site include fencing and more lighting.

"We're trying to wrangle through all of the specifics of this right now," Martin said.

Probst, who does not serve on the License and Health Committee, briefly discussed the issue during an agenda item designated for alderpersons' reports at the regular council meeting Tuesday.

"Hopefully there will be some remedies in the next few weeks," Probst said.

While city officials have expressed a willingness to work with Pawn America as its future hangs in the balance, a renewal is not a done deal at this point.

Speaking in general terms of cases involving revocation and non-renewal, City Attorney Scott Post said sworn testimony is an important part of the process.

"It's all a question of what's sworn testimony, and what is believable sworn testimony," Post said. "It has to be credible so there is sufficient evidence to proceed."

Attempts to reach a representative of Pawn America by Greenfield-West Allis NOW's deadline were unsuccessful.

In the midst of last month's fiery, Chuck Armstrong, chief legislative officer for Pawn America, said the company is willing to be held accountable for each of its stores across the U.S.

"You can hold us to it," Armstrong said at the time.

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