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City aims at loose shopping carts
Citing that abandoned shopping carts are a serious community eyesore, members of the Ceres City Council are adopting a new city ordinance designed to help out.

The ordinance focuses on making stores more responsible for keeping carts corraled. The action comes at a time when more people are leaving their cars at home to shop because of high gas prices.

Chief of Police Art deWerk said that while companies are victims of persons who remove carts from their parking lot areas, the problem is "an unavoidable part of doing business and ultimately the burden for managing them falls within the business's realm of responsibility."

The ordinance also calls for any store that has shopping carts to submit an abandoned cart prevention plan to the city's code enforcement supervisor within 60 days of the ordinance's passage. Businesses with 25 or less shopping carts will not be exempt.

The ordinance authorizes the city to impound loose shopping carts if they're not picked up by store premises within three days of the city notifying the store.

Carts not reclaimed from the city impound center may be sold within 30 days. The city can also impose an administrative penalty on the owner of the cart up to $59 for each occurrence in excess of three during a six-month period.

In instances where a cart is impeding emergency services, the city can retrieve the cart. To retrieve a cart from private property, the city must obtain a search warrant.

Del Ambris, manager of Cost Less Foods in Ceres, said the issue of shopping carts is a sticky issue.

"It's a hard thing," said Ambris. "You'll see some that don't abuse it and some that do.

"Should the owners be responbsible? They are our carts."

Ambris agreed that owners should do their part to round up carts. He said he pays a company to pick up carts every other day. In a week's time more than 100 Cost Less carts are retrieved back to the store.

"I hate to say that it's a part of the cost of doing business but in a way it is. We want to keep a good image."

He recently purchased carts at $140 each.

Ambris also feels the city code enforcement officer is going to have to "pull people over once in a while" to remind them that they are breaking the law. He said he has watched his carts end up on Columbard Way and disappearing over the Hatch Road/Highway 99 overpass. In some instances he gives certain responsible shoppers permission to use the cart all the way home.

DeWerk said word about the ordinance seems to be having a positive effect on carts.

"We're already seeing a great improvement just as this ordinance has been comtemplated by the council and the matter became publicized."