The City Council voted against a dealer license for Spindle City Pawnbrokers/Fall River Pawnbrokers for 118 Main St. last night after a debate over the perils of pawnbrokers verses the city's effort to fill vacant storefronts.
Vincent Mesolella, principal of the construction company REI Inc., hired to prepare the Main Street storefront for the pawnbroker shop, representing the applicant, Aaron Tetrault, said he'd have to check with him to see what their next step would be.
Mesolella said if his client decided to challenge the vote, he's certain it wouldn't stand up in court. "I heard a lot of philosophical talk about the business," Meslolella said, but no legal reason to deny the license was discussed.
Council President John Ward argued in favor of granting the license. He said the city could give the business a chance and if anything untoward were to occur at the shop, they would have the option of revoking the license. Meanwhile, he said, the city will have helped fill vacant storefront on Main Street - an ongoing challenge.
"I don't have a line of people like at a deli counter taking a number to fill a spot at 118 Main St.," said Economic Development Director Matt Wojcik.
But the majority of the council members voiced concern over the company's unsavory reputation. Danvers, MA Police Chief Neil Ouellette backed a move by the town's board of selectmen to suspend the company's license to operate there in 2011, according to the Salem News.
Council members Christopher Beauchamp and Albert Brien also recalled the company's 2009 application, on which the signatures of character references turned out to belong to people who had never met the applicant.
Beauchamp was also not convinced a pawnshop belongs on Main Street. "In my opinion more second hand dealers on Main Street is not going to attract the business that we want," Beauchamp said.
Councilman Albert Brien noted a story about a customer who was charged a $43 closing cost fee on a $75 loan.
Councilman Roger Jalette wasn't only prepared to vote against the license - he suggested reducing the number of second hand stores in Woonsocket. "We have too many for a city that is eight square miles," Jalette said. Also, he said, "You will never, ever get Main Street to be as it was before," Jalette said. What the area needs to bring businesses and customers in, he said, is municipal parking lots so drivers can stop nearby.
Spindle City's cause received another blow from Dan Rocco Baldelli of Gold Loan Company at 100 Bernon St., who also noted the company's troubles in Danvers and the company's first application with the city. "If he'd changed from three years ago, I'd say fine," Baldelli said.
But, Baldelli said, when the company has a run in with the police due to receiving stolen goods, they blame their employees and don't take responsibility.
In comparison, said Councilman Marc Dubois, speaking from his experience on the Woonsocket Police Department, Baldelli often worked to retrieve stolen property when it passed through his store, losing money in the process.
Ward argued that if Spindle City overcharged its customers or treated them unfairly, that would only serve to send them to Baldelli's business. "I'm not willing to simply throw someone out before they show what they can do," Ward said.
But on the vote, only Ward and Councilman Dan Gendron voted to give Spindle City the liscense.