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Watertown drops electric-vehicle charging stations proposal

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The city has pulled the plug on installing an electric-vehicle charging station in a municipal parking lot.

City Attorney Robert J. Slye concluded that the charging station would violate the state constitution, saying electric-vehicle owners would receive electricity for free under a state program through power giant National Grid.

The city would have supplied the electricity for the electric vehicles. Municipalities are not allowed to provide cash or items of value for free, according to the state constitution.

In a memo to the Watertown City Council on Friday, Mr. Slye recommended that the city not pursue the state grant because “it conflicts with the state constitution” under the provision that a municipality “shall not give or loan any money or property to or in aid of any individual, corporation or association, or private undertaking.”

Under the state-sponsored program, electric-vehicle owners would get free electricity by simply plugging into a public charging station.

Council members were going to discuss the proposal at Monday night’s meeting, but the matter was dropped because of Mr. Slye’s recommendation.

The city was approached recently by National Grid to participate in the grant-funded program that would call for installing one or more electric vehicle charging stations in Watertown, possibly in a city-owned parking lot or on other municipal property.

Funded through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the program would have allowed electric car owners to get free electricity to charge their vehicles. The city would have spent about 10 percent of the estimated $6,500 cost for the charging station and would be responsible for paying for the electricity used at the station.

National Grid is looking for about 70 municipalities in the state to participate. Several stations, mostly in New York City, already have been installed in the state.

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