Complaints, abandoned shopping carts pile up as Select Board plans action

Sep 17, 2018

The town is ready to declare war on shopping carts.

With more than 40 abandoned shopping carts collected from around town streets by the Department of Public Works and more appearing each day, the Select Board will take aim at the issue with a bylaw proposal in time for the 2019 Spring Town Meeting.

Removing the shopping carts is all the DPW can do without a bylaw in place. The Select Board and town officials are now researching ideas for a new bylaw, which will likely incorporate a mechanism to fine offending businesses to reimburse the town for the cost of removing the carts, according to Director of Finance Greg Barnes. It is being modeled after bylaws in nearby towns. Due to the complexity of the issue, it was not ready to appear on the Fall Town Meeting agenda as originally planned. 

“The bylaws are in some cases pretty complex, so we thought it best to give more time and reflection to put it together, and the spring would be the best time,” Barnes said.  

The crackdown by the DPW began this past spring, as complaints began piling up and discarded shopping carts — especially along Route 6 — became a public safety concern, as officials worried the carts could end up in the street. But with a sizable collection of shopping carts already collected, more keep appearing. For now, the Select Board will inform business owners they will be able to pick the shopping carts up. The carts could also be disposed of, a topic the DPW will be discussing later this week.

“I think what we need to do first is we need to send letters to all of these businesses saying we have their property, and they should come and get them, plain and simple,” Select Board Chairman Shawn McDonald suggested.

Currently, the DPW is holding approximately 42 shopping carts at its yard on Russells Mills Road, according to Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes. Public works crews check for shopping carts every two weeks, and spend about two hours collecting ones found along public ways.

The largest offender is Walmart, with 38 of its carts in the collection. Home Depot, BJ’s, Target, and Shaws each have one shopping cart being held. In the past few weeks, more shopping carts than usual have been collected.

“You’re talking $100 a clip,” McDonald noted. “You’re talking big money for those carts we’re holding on to,” McDonald said.

At a February Select Board meeting, members had recommended solving the problem by having the department collect the abandoned carts on public property like streets and sidewalks and send a bill to the owner of the cart, but without the bylaw it was only possible to collect the shopping carts.

At that meeting, McDonald said the town had reached out to Walmart's regional manager about the issue, but the company is not fixing the problem. Select Board members have, in the past, suggested business owners install special equipment to prevent the carts from the premises.

Barnes said the bylaw will also address another cleanliness issue: overflowing donation bins.  

“There can be bags and such left outside the bins, and sometimes it can take some time before anything is done to clean up the mess,” Barnes said.