Tucson has a new plan to get tough on abandoned shopping carts:

Give retailers three days to pick up their abandoned carts, or the city's new cart wrangler will pick them up for owners - for a fee.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to tentatively approve a new shopping cart ordinance and to allocate up to $40,000 to hire an outside contractor to remove abandoned carts from sidewalks, washes and anywhere else they pop up around Tucson.

Under the ordinance, retailers would have 72 hours after the city notifies them to retrieve their carts.

A cart could be immediately impounded if it obstructs a street or sidewalk or creates any other safety hazard on a city right-of-way. Also, unmarked carts wouldn't receive a waiting period before they're taken into city custody.

Retailers would have to pay a $30 city fee to get an impounded cart back. If carts aren't claimed within 30 days, the city could sell or dispose of them as it sees fit.

But even if the city discarded a cart, the retailer would still be on the hook for the $30. To collect its fee, the city would apply it to the owner's next water bill.

Last February, the council created a task force to look at possible fixes to the blight caused by abandoned carts..

After hearing from residents, retailers and government officials, the task force came up with a plan that will clean up neighborhoods without placing too much burden on businesses, said Andrea Ibanez, city director of housing and community development.

The ordinance will return for a final vote at a future council meeting.

Cell towers

It was a bad night for cell towers.

The City Council rejected two proposed AT&T towers: one at a local church near East Fort Lowell and North Country Club roads, and the other near East 22nd Street and Country Club.

On the first, the council voted 6-1 to reject a cell tower at Saint Francis Cabrini Parish, 3201 E. Presidio Road.

Supporters and opponents argued their cases during a public hearing.

Many residents complained of "visual pollution" and predicted a diminished quality of life if the cell tower disguised as a palm tree was erected at the church.

But proponents said the church would have put the money received for housing the tower toward assisting the neighborhood's needy.

Even city employees were split on the matter.

The Planning and Development Services staff recommended approval, saying the tower was consistent with city rules. But the city's zoning examiner ruled the opposite.

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich said there were too many unresolved issues regarding exact tower height, location and city policy to rectify at the meeting.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he would rather see the item put on hold and have the two sides see if they could work out their differences.

The council unanimously rejected the second proposed tower on similar grounds.

Councilman Steve Kozachik said the city must develop a consistent policy when it comes to installing cell towers because the current policy isn't working for residents or businesses. He said there are too many conflicting federal and local standards right now.

Hospital tax

Local hospitals will receive some help in recouping costs associated with treating the uninsured.

The City Council voted unanimously to approve a short-term tax on hospitals which could wind up fetching up to $70 million in federal money for hospitals within city limits.

Area hospitals supported the tax. Last year alone, Southern Arizona hospitals provided $134 million in uncompensated care.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at ddaronco@azstarnet.com or 573-4243.