City council could determine future of scooters Monday night

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council will vote Monday night on a proposed agreement between the city and two electric scooter companies.

The agreement would limit the amount of scooters Bird Rides, Inc. and Pony Scooter, Inc. can have in Columbia, as well as charge the companies a fee. 

"Anytime you have a business that's operating within your community you want to have some sort of agreement that talks about public safety, that talks about how they are going to contribute to the maintenance of roadway and sidewalk systems," Deputy City Manager JJ Musgrove said.

If the agreement passes, Bird would be limited to 500 scooters in Columbia while Pony, who plans to expand to Columbia in January, will be limited to 250. Musgrove said Columbia used other cities as a reference when drafting the agreement.

"We saw that in other municipalities as far as the limit to what cities were comfortable with having the number of scooters within their community," he said. "That's one of the reasons we have an agreement like this, so that we don't have an excess of scooters all over the community and be more of a storage and a litter problem."

If the agreement does not pass, Musgrove said the city may have to look into removing the scooters. Kimberly Rose, a locally contracted Bird worker, said if that happens it could be "financially devastating."

"It's something we depend on. It's allowed me to put my husband through school and I've been the person taking care of us for months now. If I didn't have that extra income to rely on there would be no hope," she said.

Rose said riders can do their part to make sure scooters remain available in Columbia.

"I just hope that they follow the guidelines set forth so people like me can continue to have employment."

Musgrove told KOMU he is not sure which way the vote will go tonight. KOMU reached out to multiple council members and was told by Councilman Karl Skala that he is not yet sure how he will vote. Skala said he predicts the discussion will be "rigorous."