County charging ahead

  • A charging station for electric vehicles sits empty, Tuesday March 27, 2012 at the Board of Supervisors at the county center in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Sonoma County's "Electric Trail" continues to grow, though parts of the network of charging stations for electric vehicles have yet to open nearly two years after being installed.

The purchase of 12 new charging stations in the north county, including Guerneville, Cloverdale and Healdsburg, using $150,000 in grant money, was authorized Tuesday by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

The move follows a similar vote in January for 18 charging stations for the county's southern area, including Rohnert Park, Cotati and Petaluma.

But for all the progress, aspects of the trail have languished.

The city of Santa Rosa installed 13 charging stations in the summer of 2010. Nearly two years later, they remain unused, in part as a consequence of back-and-forth negotiations with the vendor on how to charge users for electricity.

Unlike other local jurisdictions, Santa Rosa plans to charge drivers for electricity, which has bogged down the process.

Steve Kroeck, the city's deputy director of field services, said he hopes to soon bring a final agreement to the City Council, allowing the stations to become operational by the start of the fiscal year.

"July 1st, that's my goal," he said.

Still, the expanding infrastructure seems likely to enhance Sonoma County's reputation for embracing electric vehicles, especially as another looming grant program may add still more charging stations across the county.

For Petaluma Mayor David Glass, joining the county effort was an easy decision, one that will allow Petaluma to appeal to a new breed of green-minded tourists while lending support to a major local business.

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