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Wandering carts

Stores must track down wayward carts. People are split on whether it works.

By JACKIE RIPLEY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 3, 2002


TOWN 'N COUNTRY -- A new law requiring retailers to round up their shopping carts is only three months old. But already, some say it's not working.

"It's a disaster," said Stan Krick who lives in Town 'N Country.

Wayward shopping carts are a blight on the landscape, from open fields to sidewalks, creating safety hazards and blocking drainage ditches.

That's why Hillsborough County passed an ordinance in November requiring retailers to fetch any errant carts and return them to their property.

Merchants were given until Jan. 3 to submit plans detailing how they will go about retrieving the carts.

Some who live here say the resulting ordinance is too lenient. But at least one county commissioner wants to give it at least a year before considering stronger measures.

The ordinance requires businesses to put their name, address and telephone number on carts and to post notices inside the stores, stating it is against the law to remove carts from parking lots.

"We feel like it's being a good neighbor," said Jeff Lowrance, spokesman for Kash n' Karry. "It helps us keep track of our property."

In fact, Lowrance said in the near future, Kash n' Karry will install an electronic retention system on the carts at its Fowler Avenue store. If a cart gets too close to the property line, the electronic device will beep, and if it continues off the property the wheels will lock.

"It's cheaper than losing your carts and having to replace them," Lowrance said. "In the long run it pays for itself."

Residents who pushed for an ordinance say returning the carts to the stores' property is not enough. Retailers, they say, should be required to make sure carts never leave.

Rob Gamester, who pushed for the ordinance, said he has seen numerous carts on Hanley Road and the number is not decreasing. Recently he urged Town 'N Country Alliance members to "count carts so we can have a running total of what's out there."

Even so, civic leaders are willing to give the ordinance six months to see if it will work. Gamester said county Commissioner Stacey Easterling told him that tougher measures would be considered if shopping carts continue to litter the landscape.

"Trust me," Gamester said. "There are all sorts of ways," such as those Kash n' Karry is considering at the Fowler Avenue store.

But that solution could be a hardship on merchants, especially those who own smaller stores, said assistant county attorney Adam Gromly.

He believes it's too early to say whether the current ordinance will work. "Like anything else it does take some effort to get the information out to all the store owners," he said.

Easterling said county commissioners voted to require merchants to retrieve their carts because it meant "taking the least intrusive means possible to accomplish the goal." She wants to give the ordinance 12 to 18 months. "Then, if it's not working and people still want it, we will reopen it and take whatever steps are necessary," she said.

Publix, for its part, says it already keeps track of its carts. "Our managers, on their own time, drive around their market area and retrieve carts and bring them back to the stores," said spokesman Lee Brunson.

-- Jackie Ripley can be reached at 269-5308 or ripley@sptimes.com.

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