Crackdown on carts pending council vote

Published 4:12 pm Friday, September 18, 2009

City of Bainbridge leaders are considering whether or not to step up efforts to rid city streets of abandoned shopping carts.

At Tuesday evening’s Bainbridge City Council meeting, City Manager Chris Hobby introduced a proposed city ordinance that makes it illegal to remove shopping carts from their owners’ properties without permission or abandon them anywhere away from the owner’s property.

The proposed ordinance would also place more responsibility on local merchants to collect shopping carts that are taken off their lots.

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The ordinance would also give the City of Bainbridge the power to confiscate abandoned carts and then charge $25 per cart to stores who wished to get them back. However, Hobby said he hoped that if the council passes the ordinance, stores that use shopping carts would develop programs for retrieving abandoned carts in a timely manner.

The council could choose to set a grace period between adoption of the ordinance and the date Public Safety and code enforcement officers begin enforcing it, Hobby said.

People caught abandoning shopping carts could be charged with a misdemeanor under either the city ordinance or an existing state law that prohibits the practice, said Major Walter Landrum, patrol commander for Bainbridge Public Safety. Stores who fail to reimburse the city for cart disposal and/or storage could be fined.

The proposed ordinance was developed through a joint effort between the City of Bainbridge and Keep Decatur County Beautiful, who both shared the goal of wanting to clean up city streets and reduce the environmental and safety hazards they present, according to KDCB Executive Director Suzanne Brandt.

The problem abandoned carts present

At Tuesday’s meeting, Landrum showed council members pictures he had taken as part of a computer-based presentation developed by Brandt.

The abandoned carts, many of which accumulate on particular properties in neighborhoods around the city, are often used for unintended purposes, such as furniture, as means to transport non-grocery items and even to cook food on, according to Brandt.

They are non-biodegradable, can present health or safety hazards and can be a nuisance to pedestrians, motorists and the owners of properties on which they are left.

The problem of abandoned carts also negatively affects businesses, Landrum said. One local retailer reported paying $2,524 for retrieval of 1,262 abandoned carts during the past year. Another retailer reported paying $50 per week for retrieval of carts and $11,000 in 2008 for repairs and upkeep of the carts. New carts at larger stores can cost hundreds of dollars, costs that get passed onto consumers, Landrum said.

The council will consider adopting the ordinance at its Oct. 6 meeting.

Other business

In other business, the council:

 Heard from Osma Ercin, a senior planner with consulting firm Robert and Company, who presented draft documents associated with a 10-year update to the city’s comprehensive plan

 Approved, by unanimous vote, a request from Bainbridge Main Street/Tourism and the city’s Leisure Services Division to close Water Street, between its intersections with South West and Crawford streets, on Saturday, Oct. 31, between the hours of 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. The street closure will accommodate the city’s annual Halloween costume contest, hay ride and downtown trick-or-treating event.

 Approved, by unanimous vote, the reappointment of the Bainbridge Convention and Visitors’ Bureau’s current board members, at the suggestion of Mayor Mark Harrell. Those members are Hobby, Chamber of Commerce President Evelyn Clay, Councilwoman Roslyn Palmer, an employee of the city’s largest hotel based on gross receipts (currently the Jameson Inn) and businesspersons Matt Palmer and Alecia Brinson.

 Approved, by unanimous vote, a bill of $9,599.15 from Oxford Construction of Albany, Ga., for 170.5 tons of asphalt to be used in the resurfacing of West College Street, and a bill of $3,513.69 from Smith Electric Motor Services of Thomasville, Ga., for repairs to the pump at the Butler Ferry Road lift station. There were no bids to be considered.

 Approved, by unanimous vote, a conditional use request from Thomas Watson, with permission from property owner Al Collins, to use property at 710 Faceville Hwy. for a used car business.

 Heard from citizen Ted Snell, who asked council members to consider setting aside $100,000 in surplus funds to be used by the Development Authority for recruitment of new industries and jobs. Mayor Harrell noted the city already contributes more than $60,000 annually to the authority’s budget and on occasion, transfers city-owned land to the authority for use in securing new industries.