Whitehall City Council on April 2 again was expected to adopt an amended ordinance regulating shopping carts at retail stores in the city.
"I think council is ready to act," Whitehall service director Ray Ogden said last week.
Ogden and Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard met March 25 with representatives from Kroger, including an attorney, to discuss the proposed ordinance.
During council's March 19 meeting, at the request of the administration responding to a letter from Kroger, Maggard asked for the legislation to be postponed to the April 2 meeting.
Council members voted 4-3 to table the ordinance until April 2. The three dissenting members wanted to act March 19, opining that Kroger and other retailers had been given adequate time to respond to the proposed legislation.
The city sent letters Feb. 20 to affected retailers after the ordinance was introduced Feb. 19. In a March 15 letter, Kroger asked for the ordinance to be postponed and sought a meeting with city officials.
Kroger is the only responding retailer among 10 the city has contacted, Ogden said.
"(Kroger) didn't offer any real suggestions (about how to better manage shopping carts), but we did respond to some of their concerns with the interpretation of the ordinance," Ogden said.
Whitehall officials proposed the legislation to rid the city of the blight that abandoned shopping carts create and to make it unlawful for residents to keep shopping carts.
"It's a particular problem at bus stops," Ogden said, especially along East Main Street, East Broad Street and South Hamilton Road.
The original ordinance had held retailers culpable for the theft of carts from their property if it was determined due diligence to prevent theft had not been demonstrated, but the amended ordinance removes all such liability in the event of theft of a cart.
"We asked the city to remove (it) because it was charging us with a misdemeanor when we are victims of theft," said Jackie Seikmann, media- and government-relations manager for Kroger.
Other amendments removed a requirement to number the carts and added a provision that the city notify retailers of abandoned carts and allow 24 hours for retrieval before the city impounds the cart.
"It is in our best interest to keep our carts," Seikmann said. Each cart costs Kroger $89.
Kroger has two stores in Whitehall, at Robinwood Avenue and on East Broad Street at the Town and County Shopping Center.
Although they aren't the most theft-prone stores in central Ohio, Seikmann said, both stores are leaders in the loss of shopping carts.
"It's not our largest problem, but it's a big problem there," she said. "I'd put the number in the low 1,000s."
Seikmann said she understands the city's frustration with abandoned carts, and Kroger is equally frustrated with the thefts.
"We support the ordinance, but only if it is in the best interest of everyone," said Seikmann, who said she plans to attend the April 2 meeting.
Ogden said amendments made to the ordinance were in response to the concerns Kroger officials had voiced. Copies of the amended ordinance were sent to Kroger executives, Ogden said.
"It's ready to go (April 2)," he said.
The ordinance would require retailers to placer signs, in English and Spanish, advising customers that theft is a crime. It further requires retailers, when the store is closed, to place carts in a secure area.
Retailers must clear parking lots of all carts within our hour of closing and at prescribed intervals during daily operations, and each retailer must provide the city with a name and contact information for an individual responsible for the collection and confinement of carts.
The ordinance stipulates that any private individual in possession of off-premises shopping cart would be "considered prima-facie evidence of larceny or possession of stolen goods" unless a person has written permission.
Kroger officials told city officials it would not allow any customer to remove a shopping cart, Ogden said.
Although retailers would not be culpable for any theft, retailers could be cited for failure to secure carts or collect carts from parking lots and out parcels in a timely manner.
Violations of the ordinance are a minor misdemeanor, punishable with a maximum $150 fine, in addition to a maximum of $65 in court costs, Ogden said.