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St. Clair Shores takes further steps to bring scooters to city

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 2, 2020

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — City Council approved a lease of space in the newly remodeled Blossom Heath Bathhouse building to Gotcha Mobility for the storage of ride-share scooters coming soon to the Nautical Mile.

At the June 15 City Council meeting, Assistant City Manager Bill Gambill told council members Gotcha had requested warehouse space to be able to store its fleet of micromobility scooters. The northwest corner of the newly remodeled bathhouse has a space with an overhead door that fits the needs of the company, which has been contracted by the Tax-Increment Finance Authority to bring the scooters — and later on, bicycles — to the Nautical Mile.

The company would use about 350 square feet of space in the building to store and charge the scooters, paying the city for its electrical costs through the end of October.

Gambill pointed out that allowing the company to use the space “provides some activity in the bathhouse right off the bat.”

Nick Ross, Gotcha operations manager for the area, said that the company had 50 scooters “staged and ready to go.”

“We want this to be safe. We want it to be fun and, overall, we want it to be accessible,” he told City Council members. “Our goal is to redefine transportation. It’s getting people out of single occupancy cars and (onto) a shared device.”

The scooters will hold a charge for a ride time of 30-40 minutes, Ross said. The company also committed to enhanced, more frequent cleaning of scooters with products approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Employees are required to wash their hands at the beginning of shifts, he added, and also to wear a face mask and gloves when out on the street.

Scooter rides will cost $1 to unlock and 20 cents per minute thereafter, he said, and riders will have to get the scooters from a specific “hub” and then return them to a hub or designated area.

“We don’t just throw stuff on the street,” he said.

Riders are expected to provide their own helmets.

The company will be providing bikes to the city as well, as part of its contract with TIFA, but their production is currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ross said that a local employee would be the point person for the company, overseeing day-to-day operations. Users must be 18 years or older and will have to accept a user agreement assuming liability.

While the user agreement releases Gotcha Mobility from liability, City Attorney Robert Ihrie said he wanted to add a clause indemnifying St. Clair Shores and TIFA, as well.

A motion by Councilman Ron Frederick approved the lease agreement of the Blossom Heath space to the company, provided that language was added to remove the city and TIFA from liability.

Councilwoman Candice Rusie said that she had concerns about allowing scooters on the Nautical Mile; she voted against the plan. The motion was approved 5-1.

The storage space will also be used for bikes when they arrive in the city, Ross said.

As of June 23, Gambill said modifications to the electrical framework in the storage area of the bathhouse to accommodate the scooters is nearly complete. City Manager Matthew Coppler said June 29 there have been “positive developments” as the city and the company continue to work through the modification of the user agreement to specifically mention and indemnify St. Clair Shores and TIFA.