The electric vehicle (EV) charging station that has been in Spences Bridge since 2016 has been removed, after the Spences Bridge Improvement District (SBID) trustees and BC Hydro failed to come to terms regarding a new lease for the land where the station was located.
On March 25, a crew removed the fast charging station, which is owned by BC Hydro. There was also a Level 2 charging station at the site, which was purchased and owned by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD). At its March 25 meeting, the board of the TNRD voted to transfer ownership of the Level 2 station to the Village of Ashcroft, where it will be installed at a public location which has yet to be determined. There is no cost to Ashcroft for the station, but the village will pay the installation cost.
On the same day that the equipment was removed, SBID chair Michael Jefferson announced at a public meeting that he would be resigning, since he has sold his home in Spences Bridge. Only people who own property in the community are eligible to be an SBID trustee.
Jefferson, the board spokesperson, has consistently voiced the trustees’ opposition to the charging station being situated on land adjacent to the fire hall which is owned by the SBID. At the March 25 meeting — which took place a stone’s throw from where the equipment had already been removed — he reiterated that while he and the two other trustees were not opposed to having an EV charging station in Spences Bridge, it had to be at a different site.
However, the board had told BC Hydro that the equipment could remain at the site if several conditions were met. These included construction of a double washroom facility with electricity and running water, paving of the site, a fence around the charging station, and the payment of $15 per day to the SBID so that someone could be hired to maintain and clean the facility.
Alec Tsang, who is in charge of EV infrastructure planning for BC Hydro, says that while it was difficult to meet the SBID demands to the letter, they did try to be as accommodating as possible.
“Our official reply to the SBID highlighted how we addressed all the concerns we could, although certain things were outside our mandate,” he says.
Hydro’s response said that it was working with the TNRD, which would build a permanent washroom at the site and have community volunteers maintain it. “We thought that was a good compromise. It wasn’t porta-potties; it would provide a lot more stability and security.” The TNRD also offered to pay the SBID’s legal costs for vetting a new lease agreement.
Hydro was not able to pay rent, but — along with the Ministry of Transportation — could do snow clearing at the site, as well as periodic inspections and rubbish clearing.
“They asked us to pave the driveway to the fire hall, which is very much outside our mandate. We can pave at the site, and when we do upgrades to old stations we will pave parking stalls if it’s not done, but we can’t extend beyond the area we would be leasing for the station.”
Tsang says that the fencing request was an odd one.
“I don’t see how we could fence it and still maintain access. We could have a gate, but that makes it very complicated. Customers would have to open and close the gate, so it’s not realistic or practical. It would keep bighorn sheep out, but also keep people out.”
These items were all addressed in a letter sent to the SBID on Feb. 2, which also stated that Hydro would twin the charging equipment at the site if they were successful in obtaining a new 10-year lease. However, a month ago the SBID gave official notice that it was terminating the land lease, with Jefferson stating in a letter that they no longer wanted to continue with a charging station at the site.
While Tsang says that Hydro has occasionally taken stations out, it is usually because they no longer meet current design and other standards. “There has never been a case of someone saying ‘Take it away, we don’t want it.'”
He adds that Jefferson has always said he supports an EV charging station in Spences Bridge, just not at that spot. The SBID has previously stated that the station should be moved to a purpose-built Ministry of Transportation site adjacent to Highway 1, or at Clemes Hall on Highway 8.
At the March 25 meeting, Jefferson suggested that the Spences Bridge Community Club work on getting a charging station, reiterating that he was in favour of there being one in the town; a statement which drew groans and snickers from those in attendance.
There will be an election to fill the trustee position left vacant by Jefferson’s resignation at a meeting on May 15. As trustee Ross Figley’s term also expires soon, there will be a second election for that seat, also on May 15. The third trustee, Cheryl Klyne, was re-elected by acclamation in November 2020.
The next meeting of the SBID takes place on April 22, and the annual general meeting will be on June 26. All three meetings start at 2 p.m. at the Improvement District building (the former Spences Bridge Elementary school).
With files from Joris Ekering