AUGUSTA — When the city ends up with guns forfeited or seized during police busts, should those guns be sold or destroyed?

City councilors plan to take up that potentially loaded question at their meeting Thursday.

City Manager William Bridgeo said the city previously has sold such seized guns to licensed gun dealers who bid on the firearms.

“In the past, we’ve sold the weapons that end up in our custody that nobody is able to claim,” Bridgeo said. “We sell them only to a licensed gun dealer. So anybody who purchases them subsequently (from the gun dealer) will be going through a background check.”

The city Police Department ends up with guns, other than the firearms purchased for use by officers, in a variety of ways, according to Deputy Chief Jared Mills. They are seized during police busts and/or forfeited in court proceedings; when guns are recovered during an investigation into a theft and the guns are never claimed by their original owners, or the owners can’t be identified; and when they are held by the department for safekeeping and the owner never comes back to get them.

The issue first came up earlier this year as councilors discussed a request from police Chief Robert Gregoire to sell items acquired by his department, other than firearms. During that discussion, councilors asked what the city does with firearms it acquires.

Bridgeo said some councilors might want the city to destroy the guns it acquires rather than sell them.

Mills said police have been holding on to those guns in recent years. He said he didn’t think they’ve gotten rid of them since he started with the department in 1998.

“They are beginning to take up a lot of space,” Mills said Tuesday.

Mills said the city has 60 to 80 firearms in its possession that have been seized. Bridgeo said the guns can range from “pea shooters” worth only $5 to potentially collectible guns that could be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. He said if they are sold, the Police Department doesn’t keep the money, as the funds go back into the city’s general fund.

Bridgeo said what to do with the guns is a policy matter that is “clearly the City Council’s call.”

Mills said their research into the question showed other police departments either have an auction, sell them to a licensed firearm dealer for resale or destroy them. Mills said the department doesn’t have a position on the question of what should be done with the guns, and the policy should be set by the council.

Councilors take up the question Thursday at their 6:30 p.m. meeting in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Councilors are also scheduled to:

• discuss a possible spring leaf pickup, in addition to fall leaf pickup provided now;

• discuss a request for a public easement to Sunny Acres Drive off Burns Road;

• discuss recommended changes to the city’s personnel policies; and

• discuss a possible spring cleanup, in which the city’s Public Works Department workers would pick up large items from residents. Bridgeo said the city had such cleanups in the past and they were expensive, costing $150,000 to $200,000, depending on the scale of the cleanup and what items were accepted.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj