The Norwich Selectboard voted Wednesday night to proceed with a grant application that, if approved by the state, would lead to a new electric vehicle charging station in the Park and Ride lot at Huntley Meadow. But concern about town taxpayers shouldering some of the cost persisted.
The cost of installing the two-unit charging station is $19,418, and the grant would cover 90 percent of that. The balance is the town’s responsibility. Linda Gray, chairwoman of the Energy Committee, has said much of that should be covered with in-kind contributions, such as using town employees to dig and fill trenching. At the meeting, Town Manager Herb Durfee said existing budget line items could cover other costs, such as signs marking the station.
But the town will also face an ongoing charge of about $300 per year for five years -- or $25 a month -- to pay for the Green Mountain Power meter. An anticipated fee of a dollar an hour for the electricity drivers use would cover the cost of the electricity itself.
“Why should the town absorb those costs?” asked board member Claudette Brochu. “Why not charge users a little more?”
Gray argued the cost is worth absorbing in a town budget of more than $4 million in order to encourage sustainable energy use -- which, she noted, is a goal the town has formally embraced.
One dollar an hour is the average rate in Vermont, Gray said, and a higher rate might discourage use. In addition, said Durfee, the town would lose points toward grant approval by asking drivers to underwrite town costs, putting the application on the cusp of falling short.
If the board thought it necessary, Gray said, at least a portion of the Energy Committee’s $1,500 annual budget could be applied to the monthly charge. The budget is intended for outreach efforts, and Gray said the visibility of the station at Huntley Meadow could be considered a form of outreach.
In the end, the board voted 3-0 to proceed with the grant application, which is due at the end of the month. Voting yes were Linda Cook, Mary Layton and Brochu. John Langhus and John Pepper were not present. Given the absences, all three members present had to vote yes for the application to go forward.