Alamo Heights has a new city manager, and one of his first tasks is to oversee the development of regulations for dockless electric scooters and bicycles.
Following a brief executive session, the City Council unanimously voted Monday to pick Buddy Kuhn, the municipality’s assistant city manager and fire chief, for the top job. Kuhn replaces Mark Browne, who left at the start of the new year to become Schertz’s city manager.
Kuhn has signed a three-year contract with a $135,000 base salary, which could increase the second and third year per review by the council.
After previously working in Terrell Hills, Kuhn has spent 10 years with Alamo Heights. The city received applications from more than 60 people, and City Council interviewed three finalists, including Kuhn.
In the end, Kuhn’s experience, institutional knowledge and positive interaction with Alamo Heights city staff and residents over the years all were traits that won over the council, Mayor Bobby Rosenthal said.
Kuhn thanked the council for its vote of confidence in him.
“I know you guys had a tough choice to make and a lot of applications to look at, so I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me and the opportunity you’ve given me, the staff and my family,” Kuhn said.
Aside from hiring the next fire chief, Kuhn will have to lead the creation of an ordinance outlining rules for riders of e-scooters and e-bikes and the companies that supply them.
The council asked city staff to ensure that transportation companies are insured and that the city is named as insured on their policies. City staff will also examine acceptable staging areas and practices for e-scooters and e-bikes.
Alamo Heights is the latest area city to consider regulations for e-scooters and e-bikes. Olmos Park recently imposed rules for scooter riders and companies.
San Antonio earlier in January placed a moratorium on new permits for additional scooters, and the City Council is slated to meet Feb. 14 to vote on additional regulations.
The City Council in Kirby, just east of San Antonio, met Jan. 24 to discuss a proposed ban on e-scooters in city limits.
Alamo Heights Police Chief Rick Pruitt said there’s been an uptick in the number of e-scooters that companies Lime, Lyft, and Bird have deployed inside city limits. Anywhere between 34 and 80 scooters could be seen on parts of Broadway between Burr Road and Austin Highway during November and December, Pruitt added.
Pruitt explained that one police officer in his patrol car nearly missed colliding with a young scooter rider who suddenly pulled out in front of him.
“[The issue] is not going to go away,” Pruitt said.
Meeting attendees on Monday said Alamo Heights should implement rules for scooter riders and for companies. Some residents expressed fear that a rider will eventually be severely injured.
Others said they often see e-scooters improperly parked in places such as the historic Broadway/H-E-B Central Market bus stop that juts out into the road.
“What worries me are lawsuits and injuries,” Councilman Fred Prassel said.
Kuhn said it would be wise to see what San Antonio does first with tightening regulations for scooters before determining what is best for Alamo Heights. He said he plans to bring a draft ordinance to the council in time for its Feb. 25 meeting.
“I think we should proceed with this gently, as you guys are suggesting, but at least [look at] registration, maybe insurance, and the whole parking agreement upfront and then everything else follows,” he said.