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Published September 13 2011

West Fargo bike repairman in a fix; mayor urges donations to help man stay within city law

WEST FARGO – Some days, Keith Schoon works in his garage from 4:30 a.m. until 10 at night – and he still can’t keep up with the number of bikes needing repair.

Dozens of bicycles surround Schoon’s home at 402 2nd St. E., where the 66-year-old retiree operates Keith’s Bicycle Repair as a hobby.

The discards and fixer-uppers swarm his entire front yard and driveway, wrapping around the sides of the house.

It’s that disarray that’s got Schoon in conflict with city officials, who say he’s still violating ordinances that govern home businesses.

Schoon fixes hundreds of bikes a year, many of which he donates to neighborhood children.

The demand has multiplied in the three years he’s operated the shop, and he admits the situation needs a remedy.

“It’s gotten completely out of hand,” Schoon acknowledged. “There’s so many bikes out on the driveway and in the yard – I don’t blame the city one bit. It’s just been so busy.”

Schoon said Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan told him last week he either had to close up shop or install a fence so the bikes wouldn’t be visible from the street.

Schoon said he wants to cooperate, but he’s worried he doesn’t have the money to do what the city wants.

Not continuing the shop “would’ve been so hard on me, to not be able to help kids anymore,” but Schoon said building the fence on his property could cost $3,000.

As a retiree, Schoon is on a fixed income, and he doesn’t make any profit on the bikes he repairs.

Friends, neighbors and supporters have helped Schoon raise $350 so far, he said. Some area contractors have also offered to match the donations toward materials and to install the fence at no charge.

West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern encouraged residents to donate what they can to Schoon’s cause and said he’s confident Schoon will have enough money for his fence soon.

“It’s a tough situation,” Mattern said. “He’s such a nice guy, and he does such good work. … Nobody wants to shut him down.”

But, Mattern said, the city’s hands are tied because officials can’t pick and choose who to enforce ordinances with.

“If we could get donations to help build him a fence, that would be the ideal solution,” Mattern said, adding that he knows of at least one resident who’s coordinating a fundraiser to help Schoon.

Schoon said he wants to build the fence as soon as possible so he can continue repairing the bikes without violating city ordinances.

“It’s something I love to do; I love helping the kids,” he said.

Complaints first surfaced in May 2010 about the scores of bikes Schoon had amassed on his yard. Officials said then the bikes had to be stored indoors, or at least not visible from the street.


HOW TO DONATE

To donate to Keith’s Bicycle Repair, send a check to Keith Schoon, 402 2nd St. E, West Fargo, N.D. 58078 – or stop on by the shop.

For more information, call Schoon at (701) 799-9783.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541