Auburn's shopping cart recovery program rolls along

Burlington Coat Factory in The Outlet Collection mall owes the City of Auburn $100 for retrieving and disposing of one of its shopping carts.

At the same time, Albertsons on Auburn's south end is on the hook for $500 for five abandoned shopping carts now residing at the City's Maintenance and Operations yard on C Street Southwest.

That's what all of the businesses bound by the City's 8-year-old abandoned shopping cart regulations owed it as of Jan. 2, based on the latest billing in November, according to maintenance and operations manager Randy Bailey.

Bailey, who oversees the program for the City, brought leaders up to date Monday at the Municipal Services Committee meeting.

In a typical year, Bailey said, the program collects between $2,500 and $3,500.

Chairman Bill Peloza concluded that the program is working as its framers meant it to.

"I think the shopping-cart policy we have does help keep the City cleaner than if we didn't have something in place," said Peloza, committee chairman. "Then we'd have a real shopping-cart epidemic, like we did before we started this program."

Peloza was a member of the council that crafted and adopted the ordinance in March 2005. At that time, the hazards abandoned carts posed to pedestrians and motorists were a major concern.

The ordinance:

• Makes it unlawful to cause or allow any shopping cart to be abandoned on any sidewalk, street or other public area, other than the business establishment to which it belongs.

• Specifies that every shopping cart owned or provided by any owner has to have a sign permanently attached so it can be identified should it go astray.

• If a cart lacks that information, the City may pick it up and take it to the maintenance and operations yard until its owner retrieves it or the City disposes of it, at the owner's expense.

• Specifies that the public must be informed that taking a shopping cart from its owner's premises is actually illegal.

Typically, enforcement is a smooth-running operation.

Bailey said that when the north Albertsons store went out of business in 2013, it left some non-locking carts behind.

"Albertsons corporate decided to have the south Albertsons take care of those carts. So that caused a little issue with the management down there," Bailey said. "But then we were picking up their locking carts actually out in town, and the manager couldn't figure out how we were doing that. He thought we were stealing them out of their parking lot."

Bailey said the City is usually pretty close to 100 percent on its collections.

"We might forgive a cart here and there. But it is pretty unusual to have Albertsons with the five carts. Usually, the time when we have issues is when we get carts from Federal Way ... and they won't come and get them."

Mayor Nancy Backus had a suggestion.

"Shove 'em down Highway 18," Backus said to laughter.

"It's all downhill," added councilmember Wayne Osborne.

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