LINCOLN CITY — In 2009, Lincoln City was hailed as the first city on the Oregon coast to begin offering public charging stations for electric vehicles, but after more than a decade of offering those services for free, the city council is now looking to start charging to help fund the program moving forward.

During its regular meeting Monday night, the Lincoln City City Council heard a presentation from Alison Robertson, director of the Lincoln City Urban Renewal Agency, who reviewed the history of the free vehicle charging stations in Lincoln City and gave some options for how the city might handle the program in the future.

Ultimately, the council voted unanimously to direct staff to look into ways the program could generate revenue to offset the costs to the city — the program will continue operating and maintaining the stations as normal until then.

“It would be a shame to not continue offering these chargers, but I definitely think we should look into even a modest fee if these are going to be in demand,” Councilor Rick Mark said. “I don’t know if we should be giving it away for free. I don’t think it's something we should try to cash in on big time, but I’d like to see something like 95 percent of our costs recouped.”

Councilor Judy Casper suggested revenue from the charging stations could be one source to feed into the Parks and Recreation Department’s fund, which began managing the program in 2018.

According to Robertson, the total expenses for the program add up to roughly $47,000 for the last 10 years, though that figure does not include staff time spent managing the program.

The total expenses to install, maintain and upgrade the stations over the years added up to $38,521, while the city has paid roughly $9,800 in electrical costs from the stations. The city has also received gross revenue payments from privately owned and operated stations, offsetting the final expense somewhat.

Lincoln City first installed free charging stations in 2009, and more were added in 2010, 2013 and 2015 through purchases by the city, partnerships with the Oregon Department of Transportation and a partnership with Tesla. Two of the stations were upgraded in 2017 to add additional charging ports in Taft and Oceanlake. Lincoln City also has two privately owned charging station, one currently owned by EV Charging Solutions at the cultural center and another, owned by Tesla, at the Lincoln City Outlets Mall.

The city’s data shows that usage has increased gradually since the stations were first installed in 2009, with the city’s latest snapshot showing a huge uptick in 2018, up to 2,500 uses from 1,500 in 2017. Robertson’s report also noted that there were 55 registered electric vehicles across the Otis, Lincoln City and Gleneden Beach areas.

Robertson’s report also included information from Andrew Dick, ODOT’s Connected, Automated, and Electric Vehicle advisor, who gave input on how Lincoln City might fund its program or begin charging for use. Dick said Pacific Power is currently offering grants for charging stations, but those were mostly for new charging infrastructure and installation, not to maintain existing facilities. This is something the city might explore if it chooses to update any of its aging stations in the future.

If the city began charging a fee its stations, Dick estimates based on the city’s usage data that charging 39 to 49 cents per KWH might generate between $1,700 to $2,100 from the stations annually, but that doesn't account for a loss of customers who don’t want to start paying after using the service for free.

Other notable agenda items from the Monday meeting include:

• The council approved temporary road closures at Northeast 14th Street and Southwest 29th Street and Northeast 36th Drive to accommodate a construction projects in those areas.

• The council approved the renewal and a change of boundary for the Lincoln County Enterprise Zone, which is a collection of scattered sites that are eligible for certain tax exemptions for eligible developing businesses.

Such businesses are those that contribute to an increase in local employment opportunities, a hike in local household incomes, attract investments by new and existing businesses and diversify the local economic base.

• The council awarded Bateson Enterprises $450,000, with a $45,000 contingency fund for a total award of $495,000, for design and installation of the city’s newly purchased dewatering screw press.

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