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Fewer loose carts thanks to council
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When city officials do things right, they need to be commended for it.

So the Ceres City Council and staff win my kudos for the way they effectively tackled the abandoned grocery cart problem. Since taking action last year, it seems to be far less of a problem in Ceres thanks to action taken by city officials last year.

It actually took me spotting a cart on Whitmore Avenue last week to flag my attention to the fact that such sightings are indeed much rarer now.

City officials were tired of the way the carts were being scattered about the sides of the road, in vacant fields, and in residential neighborhoods only to abused by the elements in most cases. It seems some people were really good about taking carts from the shopping center, wheeling their groceries home in them and not returning them. They often were left to mar the image of the neighborhood, left to roll into cars and damage paint finishes, and prone to be stolen for backyard uses.

In July 2008, the city enacted a new ordinance designed to end the eyesore of numerous carts scattered throughout Ceres. The ordinance's focus was on making stores more responsible for corraling their carts that become scattered outside of shopping districts. The ordinance called for stores with carts to develop and file an abandoned cart prevention plan. The plan spells out how each store will be tracking carts left out in the community and the type of retrieval method uses. Many stores hire cart retrieval companies to round up and return carts.

Businesses with 25 carts or less don't have to file a plan.

The ordinance included a trigger for stores to act quickly on retrieval. It allows the city to collect loose carts if they're not picked up by store premises within three days of the city notifying the business. If the city has to impound carts, they will be held for 30 days and if the store hasn't picked up carts by then, the carts may be sold. The city may also impose an administrative penalty on the cart owner up to $50 for each occurrence in excess of three during a six-month period.

The city also called for store parking lots to post signs about carts as well as place stickers on carts to warn that they can't leave the premises. When a code enforcement officer sees a wayward cart, they call the store it belongs to and asks them to take care of it. Most of the stores, they report, are very responsive.

Members of the public can help out by reporting stray carts to the city's code enforcement line at 538-5799.

If in the future carts are still being abandoned, I suggest that the city look into carts that I saw being used in Carthage, Mo., recently. It was such an ingenious device that I was sorry that I hadn't invented it. In place at one grocery store was a cart that is stored in a chained-up position, linking with a long row of other carts. To free it for use the customer has to put a quarter in a device on the handle, which imprisons the quarter but frees the cart from the neighboring cart. The quarter stays inside the device. When you're done shopping, you wheel the cart back into the chain, push it into the neighboring cart handle and out pops your quarter as your cart is locked back into place.

If anything I could see people scurrying around to round up loose carts just to retrieve the quarters.

But for now, things are looking really good. Let's keep up the good work.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at