Support sought for Uptown EV charging station, community kiosk

Lassen County District 5 Supervisor Jason Ingram, left,  and Lassen Municipal Utility District Public Relations Manager Theresa Phillips share their plans for a possible electric vehicle charging station and community kiosk on Main and Gay streets in Uptown Susanville with the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors last week.

It’s only in the planning stages so far, but according to a presentation made last Thursday to the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors by Lassen County District 5 Supervisor Jason Ingram and Lassen Municipal Utility District Public Benefits Manager Theresa Phillips, an electrical vehicle charging station and a community kiosk soon may come to the corner of Main and Gay streets in Uptown Susanville.

While addressing the board during public comment, both stressed their presentation was not intended to encourage citizens to either purchase or drive electric vehicles — they said they were not weighing in one way or another on that politically charged topic.

Instead, they said they hoped the project will provide a needed service for residents and visitors alike who need a quick charge of their electric vehicles, and if they check out the information on the kiosk while they wait for their batteries to recharge, they might find something interesting to do Uptown, in Susanville or in Lassen County. In the end, they hope their proposal will be a small step for economic development in the community.

“I want to put it out there that I am not advocating everyone buy an EV and charge it at this site,” Phillips said. “That is your personal choice. What I would like to see —  if I have my economic development hat on — is that we capture these EV drivers as they travel through town.”

Phillips said there are seven chargers for Tesla owners at the Casino that are owned by Telsa. The Casino also has other slower EV chargers available.

If the Uptown project comes to fruition, the new chargers would be owned and maintained by LMUD. The proposed charging station’s location— featuring four to eight Level 3 fast chargers (a full charge in 20 to 30 minutes) —  would be displayed  on an ap used by EV drivers to locate charging stations. The idea is to fill the gap for EV users in our area.

“We can still fill that gap ourselves,” Phillips said. “We can still go after those tourism dollars, attract people here with their fancy EVs, have them stop and buy a book at Margie’s, recreate or shop Uptown, and maybe next time they come through this is a destination, not just a stop along the way.”

Phillips said LMUD purchased the former Bank of America building, including the parking lot at the corner of Main and Gay streets.

She said the publicly owned utility district obtained a $540,000 grant from the California Energy Commission, and part of the funding was intended for a large EV charging station and repairs to the parking lot. She said unfortunately, the CEC later determined the north side of Main Street did not qualify for that grant. She said LMUD could not find a suitable location on the south side of Main Street. Other plans to build a smaller station at the parking lot and another smaller station at the Susanville Railroad Depot also failed.

“But LMUD did put some funds aside for the EV charging station,” Phillips said. The district has set aside $75,000 from its public benefits program that may qualify for a Carl Moyer (air pollution) matching grant to build an EV charging station.

“I still have to fill out the grant,” Phillips said. “It’s not a done deal yet.”

Phillips said Ingram has been a strong supporter of an EV charging station in Lassen County, and the two joined forces to find a way to get the project completed. Originally the project envisioned eight charging stations, a green space and a welcome center.

The 24/7 365 Welcome to Susanville Center
“Right now we don’t have anything that’s open on the weekends for visitors,” Phillips said. “The Railroad Depot kind of does, but you have to know where that’s at … You could stop here — Welcome to Susanville, the Best Part of California.”

Ingram is taking the lead on that part of the project. He noted expensive EVs are common in the urban areas around that state and the folks who own them have deep pockets. He hopes to get them to stop and spend some money here in Lassen County.

“This is a perfect opportunity for all of us to join forces,” Ingram said. “This would be a six-sided kiosk … These charging stations would already be here and essentially put Lassen County on the map for having a high-speed charging station — the first in the county.”

According to Ingram’s vision, the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce, the Westwood Chamber of Commerce, the city of Susanville, Lassen County, the Susanville Indian Rancheria could each buy a kiosk panel, and he hopes the Scenic Byway folks would also buy  the remaining panel. He estimated the cost would not exceed $5,000 for each entity, and teach would have total control over the content of their panel.

“We want a small win here if we all do this together instead of using state and federal dollars,” Ingram said. “We eliminate most if not all of the red tape. We have to market ourselves. We have a lack of tourism. We haven’t marketed ourselves in years.”