DUNEDIN — Forget the sleigh. Dunedin officials hope Santa Claus comes to town this year in an electric car.
The Dunedin City Commission recently rejected a grant that would have paid for electric car charging stations, but officials said they still were interested in bringing the devices to the city.
Dunedin sustainability coordinator Valerie Brown said research is still under way, but staff now hopes to buy at least one charging station from Coulomb Technologies for $9,450. She said Dunedin attorneys are also in talks with Progress Energy, which is offering the city two stations for free.
The effort is in line with the commission's September 2010 resolution to support the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council's "Project Get Ready" initiative to make the region plug-in ready, Brown said. President Barack Obama has called for 1 million electric vehicles on U.S. highways by 2015.
"Electric vehicles don't produce emissions, so that helps our air quality. It reduces our dependence on oil," Brown said. "And with electric vehicles coming onto the market, we think it's a good idea to have infrastructure in place for when they do hit the streets."
Staffers haven't yet set a date for commission discussion on the topic, which first came up in August.
At the time, ChargePoint America was offering up to 10 Coulomb Technologies brand charging stations for free, with the city bearing installation and operating costs.
City staff recommended accepting three ChargePoint stations by an Aug. 31 deadline. The $9,500 in installation costs would have come out of Dunedin's transportation impact fee reserves. In a bid to encourage use by the public, staff recommended that the city absorb an estimated $8,000 in first-year operating costs and begin charging user fees later.
Each unit, officials said, was able to charge two cars at once as well as golf carts, which were approved for use on some Dunedin roads this summer.
Vice Mayor Ron Barnette and Commissioner Julie Scales wanted the city to accept the grant.
"We are a green city and the sustainability issue has been good for PR," Barnette said.
But Mayor Dave Eggers and Commissioner David Carson wondered whether the stations would be used and also were reluctant to accept federal dollars.
After hearing that the typical family that purchases an electric car has an annual income of about $140,000, Carson said he would not ask taxpayers to foot their fuel bill.
Eggers said he'd only support one unit, and only if the city purchased it itself and implemented Oldsmar's model of charging a $1 user fee for charging up a vehicle.
"People can pay a dollar to put fuel in their cars," Eggers said. "If we think it's that good a deal, let's pay for it ourself, see if we like it and if anybody uses it, for crying out loud."
Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski was absent and a motion to accept the grant failed in a 2-2 vote.
The $37 million ChargePoint America grant program was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.