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Scrap metal bylaw too onerous, says dealer
A local scrap metal dealer has run afoul of a municipal bylaw that he says makes it impossible to run his business.
Mike Salo of the Fraser Valley Metal Exchange has been charged under the scrap metal bylaw, and will be in provincial court in Port Coquitlam on Nov. 5.
Salo said he did not have stolen metal on the premises. His mistake was one of bookkeeping, he says.
Fraser Valley Metal Exchange is expected to tag every piece of metal accepted, then store and report it to the local RCMP detachment in an email, and then be able to produce it if bylaws or police come and ask to see it.
It becomes a problem when 40 truckloads come in. On a good day, his business will received 1,200 separate items.
“It’s impossible to do,” he said of this daily inventory that must be catalogued.
“I don’t know if I can afford to,” he said. “It’s very, very difficult to comply with the bylaw – nothing’s impossible if you’ve got enough time and money.”
To be in compliance, he would need two acres of land and three more employees to catalogue and tag all the material.
Indeed, in a few minutes at his site in the Albion industrial park, a pickup backs up with some scrap metal, closely followed by a flat deck truck delivering two semi cabs, one badly burned.
He explained that about 50 per cent of his business is from commercial operators. The rest is residential scrap metal.
Salo said he is distraught about what the court case and the added enforcement could mean to his business, which has been his livelihood for some 30 years.
“I’ve got every penny I own in this business. I’m stuck. It [the bylaw] is not workable.”
Salo said he agrees with the need for controls on the scrap metal business. Thieves have been stealing everything from copper wire in telephone lines to brass plaques on a cenotaph. Since 2005, the business has operated under strict controls. Salo requires identification of everybody selling metal, and outright bans known thieves.
“I’ve never been afoul of the law,” he said. “I’ve called the police dozens of times about stolen metal. I’ve bought stolen wire just to get the information [the seller’s identity] and give it to the police.”
He said he recovered stolen phone booths for Telus, and aluminum catwalks that were stolen from the CPR.
“I’ve never had a problem with the RCMP. We’ve always had a good relationship.”
The bylaw also gives him security problems, said Salo. The requirement to keep the material on site for seven days makes his yard a target for thieves. He has been robbed once already, and thieves stole a trunk and $8,000 worth of metal.
Salo said he knows the other scrap metal dealers in the region, and he maintains that none of them have taken on the onerous task of tagging and cataloguing all their scrap metal.
“I know everybody personally – half of them are on the speed dial on my phone. None of them are doing it,” he said.
“I’m the only one in B.C. who has to do it.”
Salo said industry input was disregarded when the bylaw was drafted.
“It’s a ridiculous law.”
Liz Holitzki, Maple Ridge director of licences, permits and bylaws, said several municipalities – including Abbotsford, Surrey, Langley, Mission, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows – worked on the new regulations. She said it was important that they all be similarly tough in their bylaws, so that thieves would not find a more lax community to sell stolen material. Police were consulted.
“You have to maintain it in a good, tidy system,” she said.
If an item is reported to police as being purchased at the metal recycler, they want to be able to go to a scrap dealer and have them be able to find it on demand.
She said if the scrap metal bylaw is tough, “it’s because of the problems we have with it – you have to make it tighter.
“The bylaw has made a difference, in our eyes, and in the police’s as well.”