The fast charging EV station in Spences Bridge, located beside the fire hall, is the subject of a battle. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Controversy in Spences Bridge over fate of EV charging station

Community members upset over request that BC Hydro meet demands or remove station

The fate of the fast charging electric vehicle (EV) station in Spences Bridge is still up in the air, after a meeting of the Spences Bridge Improvement District (SBID) on Sept. 24 revealed a seemingly deep divide between the SBID board and the community.

At issue is the question of whether the benefits of having the station in town outweigh the purported costs. There is also disagreement as to whether the current site is the best one for the station, and questions were raised about the overall maintenance of the SBID building grounds.

BC Hydro installed the EV station beside the Spences Bridge fire hall and the SBID building (the former elementary school) in 2016, in an agreement involving BC Hydro, the SBID, and the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD). Michael Jefferson, chair of the SBID board and one of its three trustees, says that under the terms of that agreement, the SBID leased the charging equipment to the TNRD for $1 a year for five years, and the TNRD entered into a land tenancy agreement with the SBID on the same terms.

BC Hydro now wants to negotiate directly with the SBID, this time for a 10-year land lease term at $1 per year. However, Jefferson and the other trustees are asking BC Hydro to install a washroom, citing concerns about people urinating and defecating at the site. They also have concerns about the SBID having to take responsibility for security, maintenance, and garbage and snow removal at the site.

“The Spences Bridge Improvement District cannot subsidize BC Hydro,” says Jefferson. “Taxpayers and local hosts are subsidizing charging stations and electricity costs, and legally we can’t do that. The SBID is governed by letters patent that give it the taxing authority for parcel tax charges to residents [to pay] for fire services and [maintenance of] 31 streetlights. This land tenancy agreement was very one-sided.”

Jefferson says that while the SBID supports the station in principle, they countered the new offer with one of their own, asking BC Hydro to pay the SBID $15 per day ($5,475 per year).

“We can’t tax that land. [The funds] could be credited to the bill we get for streetlights, and we could hire a maintenance person to keep the place clean. We also want some paving around the fire hall, because the station is on rough unpaved ground with gravel and weeds, and want Hydro to build some rest area-style washrooms with flush toilets that are heated all year round, which the SBID would maintain.

“BC Hydro said ‘That’s not part of our business plan, we don’t do that.’ We said ‘The ball’s in your court, make it work or take it out.’”

Alec Tsang, in charge of EV Infrastructure Planning for BC Hydro, says that the current business model for the Spences Bridge station is in line with their arrangement in other communities.

“We get a lease for the land. These sites are a loss leader, and we try to minimize the cost because of our stakeholders. We bring something to the town by investing in a charging station, which is for the use of residents and travellers. It brings visitors to the town, to stop and refuel their vehicle, which is a free-for-use service.

“The maintenance and operation of these stations is costly because they’re fairly new and the operating costs are quite high. We try to avoid costs where we can, to be responsible to our ratepayers. We’re trying to work with the community so we can stay in town with that station and see what kind of agreement we can come to that works for them and us.”

Tsang acknowledges that the lack of a washroom is the main stumbling block.

“That’s the biggest issue. It’s not in our mandate to provide washrooms at our stations, so we try to partner with associates, but there’s no such thing as 24-hour service in small communities. Other communities have managed with that situation, and it’s an issue that could make or break this.

“The position we landed on, since we couldn’t find a solution, is that we considered leaving on Nov. 1. Since then the supporters of the station have come back to us saying they don’t want us to leave, so we’re open to what would work for us to stay. We’re looking to work with all stakeholders to work it out and see if there’s a way forward.”

At the Sept. 24 meeting, 17 residents of the tiny community were on hand, and those who spoke expressed support for keeping the station, noting the economic benefits of attracting more travellers to stop in Spences Bridge and make use of the businesses and amenities there. They also expressed frustration at the way in which the SBID is dealing with BC Hydro, with one person noting that there should be negotiation, not demands.

When Jefferson suggested that the SBID was amenable to the station being removed from their land and relocated, several people noted that it made no sense to move the station to another site. A letter and petition from the Spences Bridge Community Club asking for the station to remain was not on the agenda as correspondence, despite being sent in time for the cutoff for agenda items, and was eventually added. The letter asked for a motion stating that the SBID would reverse its decision to ask for the removal of the EV station, and the motion was made but defeated, with trustee Cheryl Klyne voting in favour of the motion and Jefferson and third trustee Ross Figley voting against it.

One member of the audience produced a letter from the TNRD stating that it was willing to construct a washroom at the current site. Jefferson said he had not seen that letter, but that the trustees would look into it. To repeated statements from the gallery that the EV station was good for the town and brings business, Jefferson said the trustees had asked themselves “What’s in it for the SBID?” and that the answer was “Nothing. If businesses want it, they can subsidize it.”

“We the taxpayers want it,” said someone in the gallery. Other comments from the gallery included “You’re not representing the community”, “You’re not hearing the community”, “You’re finding reasons to fight with the community”, and “The EV station is an asset and adds to the village, we want it to stay.”

Another issue raised was the condition of the grounds of the SBID building: the lawn has died, and several trees are also dying. The grounds are maintained by the Spences Bridge Fire Department, of which Figley is in charge, and Jefferson said that the sprinkler system was tampered with in 2018. Figley said there was video of the alleged perpetrator, then appeared to contradict that statement (Jefferson said he “had not heard” about a video), and it was stated that a file was created by Lytton RCMP.

When someone in the gallery asked why no charges were laid, Jefferson replied that the RCMP had determined that what had been done was an “act of good faith”. According to an RCMP source, this means that the person was deemed to have acted in a manner designed to help or make better the situation, not harm it.

Several people expressed disappointment in the state of the grounds, describing the lawn and trees as a “gem” when they are maintained. Jefferson said that the lawn would need to be leveled and re-seeded, and someone asked why, if there was money in the bank, the system could not be up and running again. “That’s up to the chair; I don’t care,” replied Figley.

“The field is a gem, I agree 100 per cent,” said Jefferson. He said the sprinkler system is in full working order following the alleged vandalism in 2018: “There is a new control box, there are new sprinkler heads, and it was flushed out in 2018.”

This appeared to contradict a statement by Figley earlier in the meeting, when he said there was “no time” to fix the system. When asked why the sprinkler system had not been turned on in 2019 or 2020, if it was in working order, Figley replied “I didn’t feel like turning it on. I have my own stuff to do.”

The next meeting of the Spences Bridge Improvement District — at which members of the public are welcome — was set for Thursday, Oct. 22. After complaints from the gallery about the time of the Sept. 24 meeting — 2 p.m., which precluded many working people from attending — the time of the next meeting was fixed for 7 p.m. at the SBID building.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Electric vehiclesSpences Bridge

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


Community members are not happy with the state of the grounds at the former Spences Bridge Elementary School, where the sprinkler system has not been turned on since 2018. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Another view of the former Spences Bridge school grounds. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)

Just Posted

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
Interior Health records third COVID-19 death

A new community outbreak was reported at Okanagan Men’s Centre in Lake Country

The Spences Bridge Improvement District is looking for someone to fill the position of fire chief, and is also looking for people willing to stand as a candidate for the SBID board; elections will take place at the AGM on Nov. 28. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Candidates for trustee, fire chief wanted in Spences Bridge

Elections will be held during Spences Bridge Improvement District AGM on Nov. 28

Looking west from the Mesa to the Ashcroft Reserve at the start of the Elephant Hill wildfire, July 7, 2017. Students at Desert Sands Community School are looking to interview locals about their direct experience with the 2017 wildfires. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Students looking for people to share their 2017 wildfire stories

Desert Sands Community School students want to speak with residents about wildfire experiences

BC 2020 election graphic
Elections BC estimates 52% of BC voters cast a ballot this year

Results are down from 2017, and final counts will have to wait until mail-in ballots are tallied

An operator works to clear the culvert at Quartz Road in Cache Creek during flooding in April 2020. The Village of Cache Creek is looking for local contractors who want to go on a list for any work (emergency and non-emergency) that is needed. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Village of Cache Creek calling all contractors willing to work

Plus a Halloween drive-in movie event, an AGM, Christmas market news, and more

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Most Read