Watertown Pulls Plug On Electric Car Chargers

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Watertown has pulled the plug on a proposed partnership for an electric car charging station, saying it would violate the state's Constitution.

National Grid received a $1 million state grant to install 67 stations across upstate, including Watertown.

Electric or hybrid car owners could pull up, and charge up for free, on the city's tab. 

Last Monday, city lawmakers learned about the plan to place a station on city property at a reduced cost.

Council members said they wanted more information.

Since that meeting, City Attorney Robert Slye has recommended that Watertown drop the plan.

He says the grant opportunity conflicts with the New York State Constitution.

According to the city's work session agenda: "Article VIII Section 1 of the NYS Constitution states that 'No county, city, town, village or school district shall give or loan any money or property to or in aid of any individual, or private corporation or association, or private undertaking, … nor shall any county, city, town, village or school district give or loan its credit to or in aid of any individual, or public or private corporation or association, or private undertaking…'"

It's Slye's opinion that if the city of Watertown participated in the program, the city would be in violation of State Constitution because it requires the city to provide free power to the users of the charging stations.

Because of Slye's advice, the electric vehicle charging station proposal will not be discussed at Monday night's work session.

7 News contacted National Grid for comment on the city's position.

Spokesperson Virginia Limmiatis said the utility has no hard feelings toward the city and that Watertown's position on the issue is a matter of interpretation.

Limmiatis said the electric vehicle chargers are offered for the public good.

She used the analogy of a public drinking fountain - the water is free to the public to drink, but the water is paid for by the city and its residents.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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