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Watertown City Council to mull electric vehicle charging stations

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Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham doesn’t even know anyone who owns an electric car.

So he is not convinced the city of Watertown needs an electric-vehicle charging station in a municipal parking lot. He also questioned why a state program would be involved in subsidizing electric car owners.

Under the state-sponsored program, electric vehicle owners would get free electricity by simply plugging into a public charging station.

“I thought you plug those in at your home, don’t you?” he asked Sunday. “I don’t even know why the state would subsidize stuff for the green crowd. The state doesn’t give you money for your home furnace or to drive to work.”

The city has been approached by National Grid to participate in the grant-funded program that would call for installing one or more electric vehicle charging stations in Watertown, possibly in a city-owned parking lot or on other municipal property.

Funded through New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the program would allow electric car owners to get free electricity to run their vehicle. The city would pay about 10 percent of the estimated $6,500 cost for the charging station and would be responsible for paying for the electricity used at the station.

National Grid is looking for about 70 municipalities in the state to participate. Several stations, mostly in New York City, have already been installed in the state.

National Grid is asking for a four-year commitment from the city to participate in the program, according to a City Council memo from Elliott B. Nelson, assistant to the city manager.

Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith, who has been a strong proponent of environmental improvements, also has some questions about providing free power for electric vehicles. He generally likes the idea of green transportation, but he believes users should pay for the power.

“I don’t think city taxpayers should pick up the tab,” he said, adding it would be different if the city owned a fleet of electric vehicles that could use the station.

The charging stations have been placed on the agenda for tonight’s Watertown City Council meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. in the third-floor council chambers at City Hall, 245 Washington St. If council members are interested, a more detailed discussion would occur at next week’s work session.

“We’ll see what the rest of council wants to do,” Mr. Graham said.

National Grid has selected California-based Coulomb Technologies and its ChargePoint America program, which is sponsoring an initiative to provide electric vehicles throughout the United States.

The charging station, which resembles a thinner gas pump, would provide two 7.2-kilowatt charging ports and would be available 24 hours a day.

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