WILLMAR - Bicycle enthusiasts next year will have another opportunity to engage in their passion when Iowa-based bike share business Koloni sets up in Willmar.
The Willmar City Council last week approved bringing Koloni to town. The city will manage and own the Willmar program.
The Koloni share program will allow people to rent a bicycle by the hour for a nominal fee, using a cellphone and credit or debit card. When the rider is done with the bike, he will return it to one of the bike hubs located across the city.
The council approval is contingent on the city administrator and city attorney completing and approving the purchase agreement with Koloni for 40 refurbished bikes. The approval will ensure a 2019 launch of the new program, said Pam Vruwink, a member of Willmar Bikes, a local education and advocacy group.
Council approval was not unanimous. Councilors Ron Christianson and Rick Fagerlie voted against it. The concern was the lack of time for the council to approve a finished agreement.
Council approval was needed no later than the Nov. 5 meeting due to the waiting list for the refurbished Koloni bikes. The request for approval was originally made at the Oct. 29 council work session, giving the city only a week before approval was required, which was not enough time to finish the agreements.
"They have a limited number of these refurbished bikes available and many communities interested in them," Vruwink said.
There is a $46,500 first-year startup cost, which includes the 40 bikes, 10 hubs, 10 solar charging stations and the Koloni Konnect software. If the city were to purchase new bikes, each bike would cost approximately $1,500. The refurbished bikes, which Koloni purchased from failed bike share programs, cost $750 each.
Willmar Bikes was able to form partnerships for the startup funds. Committed funds include $10,000 from the city of Willmar, $5,000 from the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership and $10,000 from Willmar Public Schools.
Carris Health is giving $20,000 toward the project. That donation is part of a sponsorship agreement: Carris Health will have its logo on the bikes and on the hubs. Carris Health also wants a bike hub at its ACMC Clinic and at Rice Memorial Hospital. The sponsorship agreement between the city and Carris also needs to be approved by the city administrator and attorney.
"Carris believes this is a positive partnership with the city and community. It would promote health and positive connections around the community because health happens outside the clinic," said Leah Schueler, of Kandiyohi-Renville Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, at the Oct. 29 council work session.
There is also approximately $5,200 in annual costs for the program, which includes the annual fee for the Koloni Konnect software and for budgeted maintenance of the bikes. Willmar Bikes hopes to be able to find additional funding and partnerships that will help meet these annual costs.
Willmar Bikes has been working on bringing a bike share program to Willmar for nearly two years. While the city previously had the Yellow Bike program, those bikes were not being returned after use, and the need for volunteers to fix the bikes used in the program made Yellow Bike hard to sustain.
The Willmar Bikes group feels the Koloni program is the best option for a bike share in Willmar, which not only would give residents a new recreation choice, but visitors as well.
"We feel we have the best product in front of you, that fits your community," Schueler said at the Oct. 29 session.