The trustees of the Spences Bridge Improvement District (SBID) have sent a letter to BC Hydro, outlining the terms under which they will permit Hydro’s electric vehicle (EV) fast charging station to remain on SBID land near the fire hall:
a) The SBID will levy a $15/day (per site) rental charge to BC Hydro ($5,475 per year) in lieu of property taxes, that will show as a credit on the SBID/BC Hydro street lighting account;
b) BC Hydro will, at their cost, pave the area in front of the fire hall up to and including the charging station site;
c) BC Hydro will paint the parking stalls, erect the appropriate EV parking signage, and erect a chain-link fence around the site to keep out Bighorn sheep; and
d) BC Hydro will, at their cost, build and donate to the SBID two permanent, self-contained public toilets/washrooms on SBID land adjacent to the site, that are complete with flush toilets, heat, and lighting.
The 3,458-word letter, dated Jan. 28, 2021, concludes “BC Hydro must agree to the SBID terms as articulated above and upgrade the current site at 4800 School Street and in return, the SBID will agree to be the ‘Host’. If BC Hydro cannot agree to the SBID terms, then please remove this … equipment from the site immediately.”
However, elsewhere in the letter — signed by SBID board chair Michael Jefferson — it states that “The SBID: Trustees have passed a Motion and advised BC Hydro that on Jan. 15, 2021, the 2016-2021: SBID/TNRD ‘Land Tenancy Agreement’ will expire and will not be renewed by the SBID: Trustees and BC Hydro must remove all of their … equipment and restore the site by Jan. 31, 2021.”
The land where the charging station sits, and the equipment itself, were the subjects of five-year lease and land tenancy agreements, at $1 per year, between BC Hydro, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD), and the SBID. The agreements expired last month.
Hydro has sought a new 10-year lease for the land and equipment, on the same terms as before, but made directly with the SBID. Hydro has also committed to twinning the site and installing a second fast charging station if such a lease can be obtained.
The trustees have raised several objections, including a lack of washroom facilities at the site and a lack of cleaning and maintenance, and have claimed that the presence of the station could impede access to the nearby fire hall. They have also claimed that the SBID’s letters patent mean that the improvement district has no legal standing to host a charging station.
TNRD Area “I” director Steve Rice has offered to use his discretionary funding to build a single, permanent washroom at the site similar to those found at highway rest stops (i.e. non-flush toilets with toilet paper and hand sanitizer supplied). He has also offered funding to the SBID so that they can have any new lease agreement vetted by lawyers, and has promised the service of local volunteers to keep the site clean.
The letter from the trustees to BC Hydro dismisses these offers, calling the proposed toilet “temporary” and saying that the offers show that BC Hydro “now wants the TNRD to remain a key player in this debacle”. A BC Hydro proposal to have their own crews perform site maintenance and garbage removal, and have the Ministry of Transportation perform winter and summer road maintenance and snow removal, is termed “overly complicated, messy, very bureaucratic, expensive, and is a misuse of public funds and human resources.”
The SBID proposes using the $5,475 annual credit to create “a part-time ‘maintenance position’ for one of our local residents. The duties of which would include the … site garbage pick-up and disposal, washroom/toilet maintenance, snow and debris removal and site security inspections.”
As an alternative to the current site, the SBID has suggested that BC Hydro and the Ministry of Transportation partner to build a rest area and charging station on South Frontage Road, adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway. They have also suggested approaching the Spences Bridge Community Club to see about them hosting the charging station at Clemes Hall on Highway 8.
“The TNRD [could] use it’s [sic] access to the Federal Gas Tax funds to upgrade the site with ‘Rest Area’ style toilets. This site is adjacent to the ‘Inn at Spences Bridge’ and [a fast charging station] would draw EV drivers to Spences Bridge and enhance their business.”
Since the removal of the bridge across the Thompson River in the centre of the community, those using a charging station located at Clemes Hall who wanted to walk to businesses along the Trans-Canada would have a four kilometre walk along Highways 8 and 1 each way.
“The letter is being discussed internally and we will draft a response,” says Alec Tsang, who is in charge of EV infrastructure planning for BC Hydro. He notes that it is “too early to say” what the response will be.
“We would like to respond to Michael Jefferson and see if there’s some negotiation. If their answer is the same [as outlined in the letter] then there will be an announcement within a few weeks about the future of that station.”
For the time being, electrical service to the charging station looks set to continue. Ron Storie, director of community services for the TNRD, says that the charging station is hooked directly into a Hydro pole at the site, and that they could theoretically flip a switch at any time.
“Contractually we would like to see something from the SBID [to the TNRD] saying get off the site. That letter was directed more to BC Hydro, so we’re waiting to hear explicitly. We would then go back to BC Hydro and notify them.
“Once we receive something from the SBID, that would be an indication that it’s either a go or a no go. It’s an uneasy status quo for the time being.”