Shopping carts tabled, but still expected to pass

By Justin Boron

For the second time in a month, the Riverdale City Council tabled an ordinance to mitigate a growing problem with deserted shopping carts. Both times its approval was snagged on technicalities.

This time the ordinance, which has enough support to pass, was held up by council member Wanda Wallace to tighten the language that would charge retailers to dispose of abandoned carts.

Wallace, along with much of the council, said she would support the measure, so long as all the kinks are worked out first.

Mayor Phaedra Graham and council member Rick Scoggins also said they would support the law next time around.

Under the proposed ordinance, retailers will get three days to pick up an abandoned cart held by the city before a $10-per-day fee is assessed.

If the cart's owner doesn't retrieve the cart after seven days, the city would dispose of it at the owner's expense, which could get expensive with cart costs ranging from $150 to $400.

A customer caught taking the cart off the retailer's property also could be penalized for what amounts to theft, said Brantley Day, the city's community development director.

A state law already prohibits shoppers from removing the carts. But the state restriction requires retailers to display several signs with the ordinance.

The need for the law illustrates the difficulty in the enforcement of city codes amid the often resource-strapped code enforcement department, said Brantley Day, the city's director of community development.

The city has two code enforcement officers to cover 900 commercial properties and 200 home businesses. Any additional spare time is devoted to residential compliance, he said.

The department has struggled to maintain a positive reputation among citizens, Day said.

Code enforcement was done away with in the early 1990s, he said.

Given the past negative perceptions about the department, compliance, rather than punishment, is the most important issue, Day said.

Only about 2 percent of the citations actually end up in court, he said.

City officials said the shopping cart legislation also aims at brightening the aura of the pavement-thick, urbanizing community.

"Any measure to ensure a safe and clean environment" is worth passing, Graham said.

News Daily intern Laura McMillan contributed to this article.