Monona resident proposes electric vehicle charging station alternative

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In a presentation at the Sept. 7 city council meeting, Monona resident Grant Langhus said installing the proper outlets on existing infrastructure throughout the city could provide the same service to electric vehicle owners as stations currently being installed in other Clayton County communities—but in a more cost effective and efficient manner. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

A Monona resident has proposed an electric vehicle (EV) charging alternative he said could be cheaper and more efficient than stations currently being installed in other Clayton County communities.

 

Grant Langhus, who shared the idea at the Sept. 7 Monona city council meeting, said installing the proper outlets on existing infrastructure throughout the city could provide the same service to electric vehicle owners.

 

“The long and the short is that there’s more than one way to charge an electric car,” said Langhus, who, with his wife, recently purchased an EV. “I actually brought in a charger. All battery electrics today come with one of these so, when you leave the dealership, because you can’t put gas in your car, you can fuel it when you get home. This is the connector that goes to the car, and this is the connector that plugs into your house. This is a 40/50 amp stove or dryer outlet, the same as what an RV uses.”

 

“The neat thing with this is we don’t need to go to the extent some of our neighbors have done,” he continued. “We can take existing power points where we’d literally just need to run some wire, install a breaker and put up one of those pedestals, kind of like what you have at an RV park, with one of these outlets. That’s all we need. If we put a couple of these in town, or one of these in town, anybody with an EV could stop and charge.”

 

The city of Monona, last year, was presented with an opportunity to get an EV charging station, but opted not to participate in the Clayton County Energy District initiative to bring five stations to the county. The goal was to reverse the county’s perception as a “charging station desert.” But council members, at that time, didn’t foresee the charger getting much use in Monona.

 

Langhus said EV charging capabilities wouldn’t necessarily benefit locals (other than businesses), who will charge their cars at home. 

 

“This is for people outside the area, this is for marketing potential and to get folks here,” he told the council. “I think, if we want to compete with Marquette, if we want to compete with McGregor, if we want that marketing ability, this is how we get our name on the map, both where EV owners can see us and in brochures and communications. This is how we make people in the community happy we’re doing something about this without a tremendous amount of money and tremendous amount of upkeep.”

 

Installing outlets at a location like downtown, Gateway Park or City Park might catch some cars passing through to charge for two to three hours, Langhus said, but they wouldn’t be the primary users.

 

“The type of people we’re going to attract are folks who want to come up for Hay Days or Fourth of July. Maybe they have family in town and want to stay the weekend,” he explained.

 

Langhus said Gateway Park Campground could be a potential trial area.

 

“Reserve one of those hookups and say, ‘electric vehicles, you could be here for a max of three hours and fill up if you need to,’” he noted. 

 

Council member Bridget Schlein, who, with her husband, owns the Monona Guesthouse, said more and more guests are coming with electric vehicles and need a spot to charge.

 

“My husband and I have actually talked about putting one of these in at our guesthouse,” she said. “I do think it’s something we should consider because they are becoming more popular. I like the idea of putting it downtown because our restaurants are right there. If you need to charge it for an hour, you can just walk across the street and grab a bite to eat.”

 

Council member John Elledge also praised the idea. “As far as a marketing idea, fantastic—locking somebody into two hours in town. It has to be some place where they are going to spend more time—it has to be a trail,” he suggested.

 

“It’s going to help us with tourism, if someone wants to come in and walk the trail or go down to TJ’s and charge their car while they are eating. Anything that gets us on the map is great,” added Rogeta Halvorson, executive director of Monona Chamber and Economic Development, Inc. “It’s a good way to get repeat business too. Once they’re here, they’ll maybe come back and tell people about it.”

 

After installation, which Langhus reasoned could be aided by donations or potential rebates, he said an outlet would come at minimal cost to the city.

 

“The cost of power to the city I’m thinking is going to be less than $20 per month. That would be the cost of the electricity itself, based on 8 cents per kWH. That’s based on a couple cars stopping here a couple times a week,” he stated.

 

Langhus said the city could stick a box asking for free will offerings next to the outlet rather than installing a metering system.

 

“You’re looking at $1,000/$1,100 for a basic vehicle metering system. Then you have to take credit cards and there are fees involved with that too. Pretty soon, you have an internet connection,” he explained. “Things get complex pretty quick.”

 

The council was receptive to the idea and agreed to look into it further.

 

“This isn’t something I’m asking for a decision on tonight. I just want to make sure the council knows I’m a resource,” Langhus said. “The worst thing we could do is make a decision that would cost us money unnecessarily.”

 

Tree ordinance discussed

In other business at last week’s meeting, city administrator Barb Collins suggested updating Monona’s tree ordinance to prohibit people from planting trees in the right of way. 

 

The city is responsible for taking down trees in those areas that are considered dangerous. That currently includes 37 emerald ash borer affected ash trees—an effort that would cost thousands of dollars.

 

“With our current budget, that would take about seven years,” said Collins, who noted it’s cheaper for the trees to be taken down than treated. “My main reason [for proposing this] is to get away from the city’s responsibility of taking down trees.” 

 

Council members did not like the idea of prohibiting planting of trees in the right of way—which is the area 13 to 15 feet back from the sidewalk—because some yards would have little available space. They also feared what a community without trees in the right of way would look like.

 

“I’ve seen a picture of North Main when there used to be elms, and that’s a post card picture,” said Schlein.

 

“Drive down Main Street, though, and see how many trees are just beyond the sidewalk. There are still a lot,” countered Collins. “The city will only take down a tree that is causing a danger.”

 

“But, eventually, we’d be treeless,” said Elledge. “I would rather see a list that says these types of trees can be planted, or are acceptable. Say it’s their responsibility and you’re only allowed to plant these types of trees.”

 

The council tended to agree with that idea, allowing residents to plant in the right of way, but only if they’d take on responsibility for the tree instead of the city.

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