City officials aim to round up a problem that shoppers encounter in retail parking lots everywhere: abandoned shopping carts.
The problem is not only one of safety, officials said, but one that cost the city at least $78,000 over a period of two and a half years.
The Fayetteville City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday evening to direct city staffers to develop an ordinance setting rules for businesses on retrieving stray carts on their property.
Councilman Derrick Thompson made a motion calling for the ordinance, and Councilwoman Brenda McNair seconded it.
Councilman Deno Hondros voted against the motion.
No city or county in North Carolina has a similar ordinance, according to Brook Redding, special projects manager for the city manager's office.
“This has been a project over the past three years that we’ve spoken about,” Redding told the council during a work session on Tuesday.
Redding asked council members for direction on what the ordinance should address.
Since August 2019, he said, Mayor Mitch Colvin has requested that the staff investigate the problems that errant shopping carts cause for pedestrians and drivers.
Redding said he researched the problem that year to identify ways to track and manage the shopping cart problems and determine the city’s cost to collect abandoned carts.
Over a 20-day period, Redding said, his staff identified more than 143 displaced carts citywide. They were found in residential areas and on street curbs, Redding said.
In May 2020, with the help of the N.C. Retail Merchants Association, he said, the city entered into an agreement with big-box retail chains such as Walmart to manage the problem.
That agreement expired in April 2021, but the city continued to collect data on abandoned shopping carts. From May 2020 to October 2022, city crews collected or found more than 1,000 abandoned carts across the city.
Assuming that it takes about two hours of an employee’s time to locate, collect and dispose of abandoned carts, and to talk with the business, he said, since May 2020 the city has spent more than $78,000 picking up shopping carts.
That cost does not include the equipment needed to collect the carts and disposal fees, Redding said.
A state statute classifies abandoning a shopping cart as a misdemeanor, Redding said, but police officers can’t be expected to enforce that law when they are dealing with more serious crimest.
Councilman D.J. Haire asked Redding whether his staff and the city’s legal team can craft an ordinance to address the problem.
“It is a problem,” Haire said. “It is a concern, regardless if other cities don’t have ordinances in place.”
Redding said he would need direction from the council on what the ordinance would cover.