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City Council votes on horse carriage, shopping cart measures
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At today's regular meeting, Savannah City Council unanimously approved new guidelines on local horse-drawn carriages in the wake of a recent incident when a horse fell on an icy downtown street during wintry weather.

The new guidelines will specifically prohibit carriages to operate in sleet, freezing rain, or snow, with a cutoff outside temperature of 35 degrees.

A contentious new ordinance attempting to address the longstanding issue of abandoned shopping carts was also approved, with new amendments.

The agreed-upon measure will require any business using ten or more shopping carts to file a cart retrieval plan with the City. If they are notified by the City of an abandoned cart on public property, they will have 72 hours to retrieve the cart or be fined $250 per cart.

In showing empathy towards grocery store customers who take their groceries all the way home in the carts — which the industry says is outright theft — Mayor Eddie DeLoach said this to the grocery representatives at the meeting:

"This is not heart surgery. This is a simple process of doing your job and not complaining... these folks that need these carts to get groceries home, you just have to say 'that's part of my business' if you want them to keep shopping there," said the Mayor.

An industry rep told Council that three local Kroger stores will now feature self-locking carts, but that "there will be lots of customers that will be very unhappy" to find out "they can't steal stores' property anymore."

In finalizing the de-merger of the police department, Council agreed to accept a settlement from Chatham County to be paid $2.1 million for previous police services in 2016-17 and $1.17 million for services in January 2018.

However, the de-merger has been complicated by this week's request from the County for further police service from the City due to the County's inability to fully staff its new department.

The de-merger takes effect Feb. 1, but the County has only hired about a third of its anticipated police staff.

City Manager Hernandez requested and received authority to negotiate any further amendment as necessary in order to "finalize all actions related to the de-merger."

In other police-related business, the bid to spend $3.2 million on new Ford Police Interceptors was questioned by Alderman Tony Thomas and Alderwoman Estella Shabazz.

The bid went to an out-of-town dealer, Wade Ford, which bid lower than local dealers O.C. Welch and J.C. Lewis.

Thomas asked, "Why are we going to buy 117 police cars from Smyrna, Georgia, instead of a local company?"

City Manager Hernandez cautioned against pulling or reformulating the bid, because "The bid followed normal purchasing processes" and "we are purchasing vehicles that are desperately needed."

The bid was accepted and approved, but Council may take up the issue of local vendor preferences at a later date.

Just prior to adjournment, City Attorney Brooks Stillwell recommended that City Council force the Overtime Bar and Grill on Skidaway Road to attend a show-cause hearing to defend its alcohol license in the wake of several recent shootings there. Council agreed.