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Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

Electric scooters may be coming to Lincoln as part of a pilot project intended to find out what works best in the city. 

Planning staff have discussed using a similar approach as Omaha, where city staff are looking at signing up several electric scooter rental companies in a pilot program that will run from late March until mid-November.

The program would allow people to rent electric scooters for a short period of time. They would be dockless, meaning the scooters wouldn’t have a permanent home, a feature that’s popular in urban areas.

That pilot project strategy seems to make a lot of sense and gives the city some control over the operation, said David Cary, Lincoln-Lancaster County planning director.

The city will look at putting rules in place for the dockless programs, where rental scooters and bikes do not have specific stations but can be left anywhere, he said.

Dockless programs, particularly those operating scooters, have created problems in some communities, with scooters littering the landscape. 

“We’ve seen some of those stories ... situations where cities have hundreds of abandoned scooters ... and we don’t want to be that city,” Cary said.

He said he expects a resolution will go to the City Council, hopefully within the next two months, that will put a hold on companies coming into Lincoln and allow the city to experiment with a pilot program.

Right now an electric scooter company can come into a city without notice or permission and without any regulations.

Lincoln is lucky it hasn't had to deal with private companies coming in with no city rules, Cary said. 

"A pilot program would help us learn what works and doesn’t work. And the city would be partnering with a company rather than having an antagonistic relationship," which can happen when companies just show up and start leaving their scooters everywhere, he said.

Omaha is creating rules for its pilot program. Scooters will likely be banned from sidewalks but will be allowed on streets, much like bicycles.

Using GPS technology, the scooters can be kept out of certain areas through geo-fencing, which creates a virtual boundary that would disable the scooter if it enters a restricted area.

Council candidates weigh in

A few City Council candidates are starting to weigh in on some council issues.

Colten Zamrzla, who is running for the District 3 seat covering southwest Lincoln, said he would vote to put the quarter-cent sales tax for street improvements on the April ballot as a “last-minute preventative measure.”

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Zamrzla said constituents in his district have told him something must be done about roads and “must be done soon before the problem compounds into even bigger issues.”

The proposal, which comes to the council Monday, would use the revenue from a quarter-cent increase in the city sales tax for six years for road maintenance and new construction. The city would promise not to increase the impact fees for new home and business construction for five years as a compromise that gets business support for the plan.

The council will hold a public hearing at its 3 p.m. Monday meeting, and members are expected to vote then on whether to put the proposal on the April 9 city primary ballot.

Another candidate, Mike James, running in southeast Lincoln's District 2, has also indicated he would vote to put the issue on the ballot if he were a council member. However, James said he will not be voting for the proposal itself.

"We need to see the city partner with street contractors to improve the design of the streets and the quality of the installation before we do a temporary sales tax increase to catch up the backlog,” James said.

Mayoral candidates to vote

Two of the mayoral candidates, who serve on the City Council, will vote on the quarter-cent plan Monday. The council needs five votes to put the measure on the ballot. It is expected Leirion Gaylor Baird will be among the yes votes and Cyndi Lamm will vote no. 

Mayoral candidate Jeff Kirkpatrick has suggested the plan include language that guarantees some of the new funding would be used for residential street maintenance. Currently, the plan only guarantees a specific percentage of funding for new arterial street construction. 

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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