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City seeks to rewire charging station contract


Councilors host charged discussion over grant-funded EV station proposal at new transit facility

The Woodburn City Council voted last week to table an agreement with AeroVironment Inc. that would have authorized the installation of a new electrical vehicle charging station at the Woodburn Memorial Transit Facility, through a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

During last week’s council meeting, several councilors expressed reluctance to enter the agreement due to what they felt was an inequity in the terms of the contract.

Under the current contract, the city would be responsible for the electrical costs of operating the station — estimated at between $500 and $3,500 per year — and would receive 5 percent of the gross revenue collected at the facility — expected to be less than $500 annually. The remaining 95 percent would be retained by AeroVironment.

“Aerovironment really has practically no skin in this game,” said Councilor Jim Cox, who appeared to be one of the most vocal opponents of the contract as presented April 28.

Though AeroVironment would be contractually obligated for the operation and maintenance of the facility, the initial installation would be covered by ODOT through Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER II) grant funding.

The Woodburn proposal is one of 22 sites selected by ODOT as part of a $2 million project in connection with the West Coast Green Highway initiative, which promotes the use of cleaner fuels along the Interstate 5 corridor from the U.S. border of Canada to the U.S. border of Mexico.

The project actually calls for the installation of two chargers at each site — one a “Level II” station that takes between three and eight hours to charge a vehicle, and one a “fast-charging” station that can charge an electric vehicle’s battery up to 80 percent capacity in less than 10 minutes.

“We’re getting the short end of the stick here, and we’re subsidizing something that really doesn’t benefit very many Woodburn citizens,” Cox said. “It’s mostly going to be a convenience to travelers. God bless the movement to get electric cars — I think that’s great — but as of now at least, and for the immediate future, it’s not going to be a big revenue source for anyone, and I don’t see why we should have to subsidize that at public expense.”

City Engineer Eric Liljequist explained that the city had previously contracted to cover the power costs for all electric charging stations at the transit facility in a prior inter-governmental agreement with ODOT, which councilors approved in January 2013.

Nevertheless, Cox argued that because state agencies made the policy decision to support the burgeoning electrical vehicle industry, it is at that level of government that the costs should be borne — not by local taxpayers.

“People would laugh at us if we said we were going to subsidize a service station, you know, pay part of the gasoline bill for people who use gasoline cars. Why should it be any different for those who choose to use electric cars?” he asked.

Several councilors said they’d likely support the proposal if AeroVironment would agree to reimburse the city for the station’s power costs. The council ultimately voted to table the matter, directing staff to contact the other parties and determine whether the agreement can be renegotiated.

If the terms are not subject to negotiation, the contract will come back before the council, as originally presented, for a final vote. City Administrator Scott Derickson said ODOT would select a different location if the station is rejected in Woodburn.

“If the council thinks this is not good for the city, they’ll put it somewhere else,” he said. “In my understanding, probably Wilsonville.”