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Longview will soon have a shopping cart retrieval program.

The City Council on Thursday night approved a new ordinance requiring businesses with more than 10 shopping carts to have a plan to prevent people from removing carts and a method for retrieving stolen carts. They would be required to file the plan with the city and pay a $25 processing fee.

Debra Stein, a vendor who retrieves carts for local Safeway and Fred Meyer locations, said she picked up about 90 carts on her route through Longview and Kelso on Wednesday. She goes out once a week.

“I have a real hard time saying it’s just (the homeless) because I know it’s not, but they’re out there and if every store had a contracted vendor, you wouldn’t have as much of a problem,” Stein said. “If I have to go out twice a week, I’m more than willing.”

The ordinance is intended to deter theft and reduce the number of abandoned carts that contribute to blight in the city.

“I had the opportunity to meet with some local grocers in the community and largely they were all in favor or in support of this ordinance,” City Manager Kurt Sacha told the council.

City employees would be allowed to impound abandoned carts that are blocking emergency services or don’t have required signs on them.

The city would notify the potential owner, who could then retrieve the carts with credible evidence of ownership. Failure to retrieve the cart would result in a $25 per cart fine.

Multiple people said they were concerned about the police department’s ability to enforce misdemeanor theft of shopping carts, but City Attorney Jim McNamara said the ordinance is primarily related to making the owners responsible for a system to keep their shopping carts.

“We have created a class of people for whatever reason who are not subject to the same laws and same enforcement that I am,” a Longview resident told the council. “What if these people want to move up to a better vehicle and want to appropriate one of my cars? … Are they going to be able to keep my car the same way they keep the cart?”

Councilman Chet Makinster said he supported the ordinance to deter homeless people from stealing the property of businesses.

“We have to enforce the same laws against homeless people that would be enforced against me,” he said. “Maybe the threat of going to jail ... will change their minds.”

In other business, the council also:

  • Rejected a $2.68 million bid from Nutter Corp. of Vancouver to install a new box culvert along Beech Street between 21st to 28th avenues. The council opted to return to the project when the bidding climate is more favorable.
  • Heard an update on the project to improve the intersections of State Route 432 with State Route 411 and California Way.

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