Town Council will consider an ordinance Feb. 20 that could allow food carts at the Town Mall to remain overnight.

Currently, all vendors serving food on the Mall have to move their carts by 10 p.m. each day. Owners of the carts are allowed to stay overnight in special circumstances six times each season, in the event of mechanical failure or other incident.

Moving the carts on and off the pads provided for them is, say vendors, an inconvenience that also causes wear and tear to the curbing each time the carts are loaded. Vendors pay $2,000 to use the pads at the mall for the year.

“We are very interested in leaving them there, that would be great,” said Bill Dufresne of B.B.’s Grill, one of the vendors. “I don’t think it would be much disruption.”

The proposal was brought before the council by Councilors Suzan Wilson and Kathy Wilson, who wanted to get a read on whether an ordinance had a chance of passing. The idea of overnight parking had been floated before, but failed.

“There’s some disruption from moving them, and there’s some wear and tear on the mall,” said Suzan. “We did say that we would ask another time for these constituents.”

Dufrense said that if they were allowed to leave the carts, the hours of operation would remain the same and the carts would still be pulled off once a week for cleaning. “It’s not like we’re going to stay open until 2, 3 in the morning,” he said.

Some councilors took issue with the idea of leaving the carts overnight.

“I empathize with you, but I treasure the town mall, and I don’t think we should use it as a parking lot. It’s our town park, it’s our downtown town park,” said Councilor Jane Millett.

She added that the purpose of the park, which was created by a donation in 1838, was to reserve the space for a public walk, not for vendors. “I’ve heard from a number of people who have said ‘no, they should not be allowed to stay there.’”

Councilor Steve Walker agreed with Millett’s assessment. “Do we as a community, want to give away more of our public spaces to commercial interest,” he said. “This is a public park for all people, to be used by the people first.”

The objections were countered by Suzan, who pointed out that the entire mall is used for commercial uses.

“For any number of years, we’ve allowed the farmers market, a profit-making entity, to use the mall two days a week,” she said

Ideas for a potential ordinance included limiting the hours that the vendors could be open, and requiring the carts to be moved if they were planning on being closed for more than a certain period of time.

Millett suggested that any action be tabled, but Council Chair John Perreault insisted that if the matter were to come before the council again, some sort of action should be in the works.

A straw poll of councilors had all but Walker, Millett, and James Mason supporting a potential ordinance.