East Grand Forks City Council members consider implementing scooters in the city

EAST GRAND FORKS – After being implemented in Grand Forks a few months ago, Bird Rides Inc. is now proposing expanding its scooters to East Grand Forks.

City Council members considered the request during a work session Tuesday evening. Council members have questions about the program. For example: What about scooters being left around the city? And where will scooters be allowed?

Council member Marc DeMers asked about the actions that can be taken if scooters are left in front of doorways and potentially impede wheelchair access to sidewalks.

Julianne Roller, who works in government partnerships with Bird Rides, told council members that a huge part of preventing clutter is through user education. When someone creates an account on the Bird app — how people pay and unlock the scooters — they have to go through educational material, such as how to properly park scooters.

“So this just gives them examples of where to park, not to block ramps, doorways, anything like that,” Roller said.

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A local fleet manager will be responsible for ensuring the scooters aren’t left where they aren’t supposed to be. Some ways people can report a scooter is by scanning the QR code on the scooter, using community mode on the Bird app. Roller said contact information is listed on every scooter for people to report problems. If scooters consistently are left in a particular area and cause problems, that area can be marked as a no-park zone.

In addition to being responsible for moving scooters, the fleet manager will be responsible for maintaining the scooters and storing them.

The scooters will be used in bike lanes and on the side of streets. They are able to reach 15 mph.

During Tuesday’s discussion, DeMers said he is in favor of implementing the scooters in the city. He sees them as "an emerging trend."

Mayor Steve Gander also expressed interest, noting the success of scooter programs in other cities.

“It’s almost become a case where if you’re going to be a summertime recreational area, you need to have these,” Gander said. “That’s how cool they are. People are just loving riding these things.”

More discussion on the scooter program — including a memorandum of understanding and ordinances for electric scooters in the city — will be held in the coming weeks.

In other news Tuesday, council members:

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Received an update on child care from Economic Development Director Paul Gorte. Earlier in the year, the city undertook a strategic planning process with the Rural Child Care Innovation Program. The program resulted in a Community Solution Action Plan. A team has been working with the Northwest Minnesota Foundation to create a sustainable funding source to achieve identifying and implementing financial support to help reduce capital and operating costs for child care without relying on public funds.Reviewed a drafted policy by Parks and Recreation Superintendent Reid Huttunen to establish a consistent approach for officially naming and renaming parks, recreation areas and facilities in the city. The policy was reviewed by the Parks and Recreation Commission at an October meeting with members' input being used to finalize the draft. The policy will ensure parks, recreation areas and facilities are easily identified and located; ensure that given names to parks, recreation areas and facilities are consistent with the values and character of city and neighborhood served; encourage public participation in the naming, renaming and dedication of parks, recreation areas and facilities; and encourage the dedication of lands, facilities, or donations by individuals and/or groups.Considered a proposal from The Village Business Institute to provide an employee assistance program that would be available for full-time city employees. If implemented, employees would have access to counseling services covering relationship issues, emotional health, drug/alcohol issues, workplace issues, health risk assessments, wellness programs and more. City Administrator David Murphy said the program is affordable, as VIP charges are based on full-time equivalent numbers at a rate of $30 per employee per year. The city has 99 full-time equivalent units, which calculates to a total cost of $2,970 per year.

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