Unlawful possession of a shopping cart in Whitehall would become a minor misdemeanor under a proposed ordinance.

Unlawful possession of a shopping cart in Whitehall would become a minor misdemeanor under a proposed ordinance.

The city is placing retail stores on notice, too, that they could be cited for negligent management of shopping carts.

Citing the blight that abandoned shopping carts in the city creates, Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard said she supports legislation service director Ray Ogden has requested to make it a minor misdemeanor for individuals to unlawfully possess a shopping cart and to establish a series of requirements for retail stores that have shopping carts.

Those requirements include posting signs in English and Spanish, advising that removal of shopping carts from the private property of retail stories is illegal. The carts would have to include the store logo or stamp.

Retail stories also must provide the safety director with a name and contact information for an individual responsible for the collection of off-premises shopping carts belonging to the retailer.

The ordinance provides for the city to impound any abandoned shopping cart, placing a $20 bounty for the reclamation of impounded carts. The city, since late last summer, has collected about 100 carts, all of which remain in the custody of the city, Maggard said.

The ordinance would require retail stores, within one hour upon the close of business, to remove all shopping carts from parking lots and outparcels, and carts would have to be collected from the parking lots at least once an hour. Moreover, carts would have to be placed in a locked enclosure or otherwise secure area.

The ordinance stipulates that any private individual found in possession of a commercial shopping cart, off premises of the retail area, would be "considered prima-facie evidence of larceny or possession of stolen gods" unless a person has written permission from the cart's owner. The charge for a minor misdemeanor in Ohio is a maximum of $150, with no jail time.

The ordinance defines many elements that might be considered understood, such as extending the definition of customer as a person either purchasing or browsing at a store, but is meant to cover every facet of interpretation, officials said.

The ordinance is scheduled for a third and final reading at the March 19 meeting of Whitehall City Council.

Because the legislation does not contain an emergency clause, it would not become effective for 60 days upon passage, giving residents and retail owners due notice, Maggard said.