Scooter, alcohol regs approved by council

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cape Girardeau's city council will allow travel by scooters on more of the city's streets, but hasn't budged so far on a requirement for operators to wear helmets that would be included in a proposed ordinance to regulate the operation of scooters. Purchase of insurance may also be required.

A limited range was a main concern of scooter operators who appeared before Cape Girardeau's city council Monday night to oppose the ordinance, which passed its first reading 6-1. Councilman Trent Summers voted no.

Councilwoman Loretta Schneider was successful in proposing that roads on which scooters would be allowed should have a speed limit of 35 mph. Several Southeast Missouri State University students spoke to the council and expressed worry over the limited access they said they would experience were scooters allowed only on roads with a 30 mph speed limit or less, as written in the proposed ordinance.

"I wouldn't be able to get to work," said Lauren Ditto, a university student who works at Buzzi Unicem, a cement manufacturer on the southern side of the city. "My scooter is my only means of transportation."

Other speakers asked for more education on scooter safety to be made available by the university or through the city rather than the city enacting an ordinance, or were opposed to wearing helmets.

"As an American citizen, I have the liberty to make bad decisions," said Jake Beckman, who asked the council not to pass a requirement in the ordinance to wear helmets.

Councilman Mark Lanzotti, along with Councilman John Voss, both supported adding an insurance requirement to the ordinance. Lanzotti said operators of scooters are not covered under homeowner or rental policies, which means that anyone else who experienced property damage as the result of a scooter crash could end up with a bill for the damages.

Lanzotti proposed amending the ordinance to require the purchase of insurance and the amendment received approval from all council members with the exception of Summers, who voted no.

Summers asked that the helmet requirement be removed from the ordinance because he said he felt it was an infringement of rights, but his proposed amendment was not approved.

During the study session, council members expressed reluctance to enact the ordinance for scooters or one related to underage drinking by emergency measure. That ordinance, which would prohibit patrons under the age of 21 from being in bars or restaurants that derive more than 35 percent of their proceeds from alcohol after 10 p.m., also passed its first reading by a 5-2 vote. Summers and Council Meg Davis-Proffer voted no.

Davis-Proffer cited issues with language contained in the proposal that would apply to people between the ages of 18 and 21 and their "legal guardians" or parents while they were present in an establishment, while Summers said he was unsure the measure would actually control the problem of underage drinking as intended with the ordinance.

Voss questioned whether employees of those businesses the ordinance would apply to would be able to work there if the law was passed and asked that staff make changes to the ordinance to accommodate employees and employers.

During the 5 p.m. study session, when city attorney Eric Cunningham noted that the ordinance, submitted as drafted by the university, made no distinction between employees and patrons, Voss and others said they couldn't rush through the process.

Voss called the proposal "far too broad" and said he would rather take his time and get the ordinance right during their first shot, or as close as they can.

Lanzotti, during the study session, also said he feels strongly about langauge exempting employees from having to abandon their places of employment at 10 p.m. He noted that state laws allow those under 21 to serve alcohol.

Mayor Harry Rediger said he didn't want to hurry the bill, either, that requires scooter riders to wear helmets. The emergency clause would enact the ordinance too soon for scooter owners to buy helmets or for law enforcement to prepare for enforcement, he said.

As part of the consent agenda, the council also approved amending the zoning of a nine-acre tract of land along Bertling Street and Old Sprigg Street Road from single-family residential to multi-family residential. A prospective developer may construct a multi-unit apartment complex on the acreage for student rental.

Staff writer Scott Moyers contributed to this report.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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