The city hopes to see fewer errant shopping carts in parks and other public places in 2018, thanks to a financial "incentive" for stores to retrieve the carts.
The city will issue a $50 fine to store owners who don't retrieve carts within seven days after they are reported abandoned.
On Dec. 21, the council voted 6-1 for the new ordinance that deals with the growing issue of stolen carts that are abandoned throughout the city. Local store owners met with city officials on two occasions to get their feedback before the ordinance was voted on.
"If you go around our city, particularly the western part, you will see shopping carts," Councilor Kevin Stine said. "With this ordinance, we hope to mitigate the problem."
Stine said he would like to see store owners get carts with wheels that lock if they leave the parking lot, or some sort of machine that would encourage shoppers to bring the carts back.
Stine sparked the initial council discussion of the shopping cart problem, but Councilor Dick Gordon didn't think the ordinance went far enough to take care of the problem.
"You really backed off on your original position," Gordon said to Stine. "It's not going to do the job."
Gordon said the city is doing the work for local stores by picking up carts and bringing them to storage locations owned by the city.
"This is not a solution, but maybe it's a start," Gordon said.
Store owners are required to affix signs on shopping carts that show a toll-free number, 1-888-55-CARTS, or recommend the carts be returned to the appropriate store.
The Medford Parks and Recreation Department and Medford police estimate that the annual city expense to retrieve and dispose of unclaimed shopping carts is $10,000 in 2017, about double what it was in 2016.
Councilor Kim Wallan said the council has been criticized by some locals for levying a fine on the victims of the theft: the stores. Originally, the city looked at levying the fine after a store hadn't picked a cart up in 72 hours, but store owners pointed out that the cart service they work with only picks them up from the city once a week.
The city contacted 51 markets and other businesses that use shopping carts, and most were open to the ordinance and supported the idea of a centralized location where they could be picked up. (Corrected from an earlier version).
Wallan said she would vote for the ordinance but wondered how effective it would be in practice.
— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email@example.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.