By Holly Cook
The electric car charging station located at Roeland Park City Hill will remain open for the foreseeable future despite the fact that it is rarely used.
Roeland Park councilmembers this week agreed to spend about $700 to renew the station’s software for the next three years and indicated some interest in upgrading the station in future years.
The charging station has two pumps that can be used by motorists free of charge. While station usage experienced an upward trend towards the end of 2017, overall usage is “quite low” said city assistant administrator Jennifer Jones Lacy.
The station generated $330 worth of energy use in 2017 and was used by 54 unique drivers. So far this year only three drivers have used the system, Lacy said.
Councilmember Tom Madigan said when the pump was first installed in 2010 he was opposed to placing it at City Hall and instead wanted the pump at a more visible location.
Councilmember Michael Poppa suggested increasing visibility with better signage and asked city staff to look into costs associated with adding signs.
Councilmembers also debated whether the city should start charging for the use of the station.
Madigan said he supported charging, even if it was a nominal amount.
Councilmember Becky Fast said she noticed the pump was not generally used by Roeland Park residents and asked if the system tracked where the users were from. She questioned why the city would subsidize the pump’s usage if residents were not the ones using it.
City staff did not have data on how many users were from Roeland Park.
After a brief discussion the council showed support for keeping the service free of charge.
Mayor Mike Kelly said as electric car usage continues to trend upward he expected the charging station to see more use. Kelly said he would like the council to consider modernizing or buying a new charging system in 2019 or 2020.
Roeland Park’s electric vehicle charging system was the first of its kind installed in Kansas. The city had a ribbon cutting ceremony in 2010 with then Governor-elect Sam Brownback.