Killer Carts Corralled

Lakewood City Council got a grip on the stray shopping cart issue at the December 4th meeting. Council member Ryan Demro (ward two) had brought the problem to the attention of council several months ago. Council had referred the matter to the housing committee which member Nickie Antonio (at large) chairs. Before she read the committee’s final report she said “I’ve learned more about shopping carts than I ever wanted to.”

The central conundrum the committee faced was how a cart goes off a store’s premises. Does the store turn a blind eye when a customer takes a cart? Who are these customers who take the carts? Who is responsible for retrieving the errant carts and how much of a fee should be levied if the city refuse crews have to return a cart?

The centralized location of most of the stores to downtown and their proximity to Barton Senior Center presented an answer as to who was taking the carts. It was the older women living in the Barton Center – everybody’s Mom and Grandma! Public Works Director Tony Beno exclaimed at one meeting “Do you want us to issue a citation to some 85 year old woman who lives in the senior center?” The political and human answer to that question was obvious.

The committee recommended stronger language in the ordinance that deals with removing shopping carts in order to make removing the carts unlawful. Attention was then directed to the stores. Currently the city charges a retrieval fee that could be raised to $30.00. There was concern that raising it too high would send a message of an anti business attitude to merchants.

Ultimately, this shopping cart issue will probably have to go in front of the newly created Community Relations Board according to member Mary Louse Madigan (ward four).

Council accepted the recommendation of the more strongly worded ordinance.

While errant shopping carts might be a cosmetic or quality of life issue a much more serious matter caught the eye of Demro. This was the state and city laws regarding residency of convicted sexual predators and child-victim offenders. A year ago, Demro thought that the state law which prohibits such individuals from living within 1000 feet of a school did not provide sufficient protection to residents of Lakewood, particularly children.

The matter was referred to the rules and ordinances committee which is chaired by member Kevin Butler (ward one). Extensive work was done by the two attorney members of the committee (Edward Fitzgerald, at large along with Butler), the city’s law department and the police department.

Currently, an offender has to register with the county sheriff when he or she takes up residence in a county. The sheriff then notifies the local police. In Lakewood, police follow up with a visit from an officer or detective as part of an ongoing program to keep tabs on the offender.

However, there was little provision in the state law to force an offender to move if he was within the 1000 foot “bubble” of a school.

The committee recommended enforcement procedures which according to Law Director Brian Corrigan “lets Lakewood start eviction proceedings right in our own court.”

Also, the new law expands the types of prohibited areas of residency to include libraries and public parks.

Mayor Thomas George said “we wanted to craft legislation that was good and enforceable. This does it.”

These tougher prohibitions and enforcement mechanisms are on the path to become law in Lakewood.

Since it is the end of the year there were “maintenance” items on the docket which were largely budget related. Due to the fast and efficient reading of the items into the record by Council Clerk Mary Hagan these items were disposed of quickly.

In comments at the end of the agenda Human Services Director Dottie Buckon reminded everyone that Thursday would be the start of the no smoking ban which resulted from the passage of state issue five this past November. She indicated that Lakewood’s health department along with the departments of other cities, the county, and the state have been meeting to clarify implementation procedures for the ban. This will be an ongoing effort.

President Robert Seelie adjourned the meeting at 8:27.
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Volume 2, Issue 25, Posted 2:02 PM, 12.10.06