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Lexington council balks at crackdown on shopping carts

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The city of Lexington is looking for ways to reduce or eliminate abandoned shopping carts as the number of orphaned shopping carts has skyrocketed in recent months. A Lexington council committee struck down a draft order that would have required companies to recover an abandoned shopping cart within 24 hours or face fines.

bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

A proposed ordinance that would have required Fayette County businesses with shopping carts to pick up those abandoned carts within 24 hours or face fines was killed on Tuesday after too many questions were raised about how local law would be applied.

The lack of corporate input also derailed the proposal.

The order would have fined retailers for failing to retrieve orphaned or abandoned shopping carts – $ 100 for 1-3 violations per year, $ 200 for 4-6 violations per year, and $ 300 for 7-9 violations per year. Business owners with more than 10 shopping carts could have submitted an optional recovery plan that labeled each cart with the company name and phone number.

Members of the council’s environmental quality and public works committee voted 7-2 on Tuesday not to advance the ordinance.

Lexington began to see a slight increase in the number of orphaned or abandoned shopping carts over the winter.

In one example, the city found more than 80 shopping carts in an area next to Buena Vista Drive. City officials said these carts can create hazards for drivers and end up in city streams and waterways, causing flooding and other drainage issues.

“The problem was that we (the city) were responsible for getting them back,” said City Councilor David Kloiber, who pushed for the ordinance. Taxpayers were footing the bill to find and dispose of these carts, he said.

The Environmental Quality and Public Works Committee first discussed the issue in June, but ultimately chose to obtain more data to determine the extent of the problem. Some board members also expressed reservations in June over imposing the burden on businesses of collecting carts when buyers or others removed them from the property.

Kloiber told the committee on Tuesday that the city has since tracked the number of calls through its general phone number – LexCall or 311 – and had received 79 complaints since June.

“They are across town,” Kloiber said.

Kloiber said he had also spoken to business owners about the proposed ordinance.

“The most important thing they brought up was that they wanted flexibility,” Kloiber said.

Kloiber said the citations would not be privileges against the company.

“We’re trying to make this as flexible as possible,” Kloiber said. “We try to make this as much a partnership as possible.”

Kloiber said when the city now finds carts, workers throw them away. The proposed ordinance allows companies to recover the carts. If the business does not collect the shopping cart, the city can return it if the cart has a sign on it.

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The city of Lexington is looking for ways to reduce the number of abandoned shopping carts as the problem has exploded in recent months. Photo provided LFUCG

City Councilor Amanda Bledsoe said the order would punish the wrong entity – the business, not the customer who takes the cart.

Bledsoe said 24 hours is not enough for a business to retrieve a cart.

“I want to help fix the problem,” Bledsoe said. “This is not the right solution.”

Bledsoe said she had spoken to representatives of Kroger and other members of the retail community and that they were not aware of the proposed order.

City Councilor Richard Moloney said he would like to hear more from business owners about what they think they can do.

“I would like the business world to have their say,” Moloney said.

City Councilor Preston Worley said he was not prepared to punish business owners “who were robbed”.

Kloiber said private business properties end up in the city’s waterways and streams, and taxpayers pay to clean them up.

“It’s about sharing the responsibility instead of carrying it entirely to us,” Kloiber said.

Not everyone was opposed to the ordinance.

City Councilor Jennifer Reynolds said there was no perfect solution to the abandoned shopping carts problem, but the ordinance was a start. If there were any problems, the city could make changes to the ordinance later, she said.

Because the ordinance died in committee, it cannot be brought back.

This story was originally published 24 August 2021 3:41 pm.

Beth Musgrave covered government and politics for the Herald-Leader for over a decade. A graduate of Northwestern University, she worked as a reporter in Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Washington DC


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