STARKVILLE — City residents might again see Bird scooters operating in town.
Aldermen approved with a 4-3 vote Tuesday an agreement with Bird for the company to provide motorized commercial scooters for rent under the board’s jurisdictional limits. The board will hold two public hearings to discuss the particulars of an ordinance to regulate the scooters.
This comes 11 days after the board banned the scooters a second time by overturning Mayor Lynn Spruill’s veto to keep the vehicles in town. The original ban for the scooters came after several complaints from Starkville residents of misuse of the devices, such as riding them down highways and sidewalks and users operating them under the influence.
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, who has consistently supported having the scooters in town, was joined in approval of the proposed contract by newly elected aldermen Jeffrey Rupp and Mike Brooks, of Ward 3 and 4 respectively, as well as Ward 7’s Henry Vaughn, who previously voted to overturn Spruill’s veto and ban the scooters. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Ward 5 Alderman Hamp Beatty and Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins, who represents Ward 6, opposed the contract.
Board Attorney Chris Latimer presented the agreement draft with Bird to the board. His first draft of the contract stated that Bird would give the city full universal indemnification, or security against legal liability. Bird opposed this provision but ultimately agreed on a “willful misconduct” exception to the indemnification language.
“What that means is Bird agreed to indemnify and defend or pay the judgement or settlement that the city may enter into except if they can prove the willful misconduct of the city,” Latimer said.
Bird Senior Associate of City and University Partnerships Adam Blau, who attended Tuesday’s aldermen meeting, defined willful misconduct as someone of the city “who is acting in the scope of their duties or who deliberately causes harm.”
The agreement requires Bird to present the city with a certificate of insurance and name Starkville as an additional insured party under the policy. Business will not resume until this document is presented to and approved by Latimer.
Blau said he is confident his company will carry out the city’s requests outlined in the agreement, and Bird aims to provide custom services to its city partners whenever possible.
“In communication with the mayor, immediately when we knew that was an issue, we went ahead and implemented that,” Blau said. “So what I’m trying to say is, as long as we know there is an issue, we can go ahead and implement things and fix those things. This program is really evolving. We’re really good at keeping up the needs and expectations of our customers.”
Ordinance and public hearing
While the aldermen approved the agreement, they still will consider an ordinance to regulate the scooters in town. They will hold two public hearings on July 20 and Aug. 3 to discuss community concerns and potential rules and regulations.
Spruill said the board can vote at the Aug. 3 meeting as long as the ordinance is finalized.
Carver, who has consistently voiced disapproval of the Bird scooters, said when the scooters return he would like to see more education on who can ride them where and when.
“I will be in support of anything that’s an ordinance, if it gets to that point, that really ensures that we indemnify ourselves as a city and making sure that the ridership understands what they’re doing,” Carver said.
Beatty said he would like to see a helmet statue implemented for people riding the scooter to prevent potential danger.
“It’s fine until someone hits a curb or a pothole,” Beatty said.