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Electric-vehicle charging station planned at Tops in Seaway Plaza

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The Tops grocery store in the Seaway Plaza off Route 11 will offer an electric-vehicle charging station in a project with National Grid that received approval Wednesday by the Pamelia Planning Board.

Tops will pay for the electricity used by its customers at the station, which would include two connector cables for vehicles to charge simultaneously. The store is expected to reach an agreement soon with National Grid, pending approval from the Seaway Plaza owner. The station, to be situated on the Route 11 side of the store, will be operated by National Grid — one of the 66 such stations the utility aims to establish in upstate New York. A $1 million grant from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority will help fund the stations.

Tops will offer the two-car station as a service to customers while they shop, said Ronald Gulmi, project manager for National Grid. The chargers will be compatible with hybrid vehicles that use 208 and 220 volts.

It typically takes six to eight hours to fully charge a hybrid vehicle that’s on empty. But customers that use the station only are expected to use it for a limited amount of time while they shop.

“It’s called an ‘opportunity charge’ because I’m charging it while I’m shopping,” said Mr. Gulmi, who aims to complete the project by May 1. Customers will be able to access the station by swiping a card acquired by ChargePoint, the manufacturer of stations headquartered in California. Alternatively, they can call the company or swipe a new-style credit card with an RFID chip to verify their identity.

The electricity, which will cost an average of about 50 cents an hour, will be provided courtesy of Tops.

After reviewing maps of the station, Planning Board members were concerned that vehicles might park outside the designated spaces and impede delivery truck traffic. The cords typically are 18 feet long.

Board member Walter H. VanTassel recommended installation of a chain-link fence or similar barricade at the edge of the parking spaces to prevent vehicles from parking outside the area.

“I want the plan to include a barrier or fence to keep vehicles from parking perpendicular there,” he said.

The board issued its final approval of the project, contingent on the installation of a parking barrier and submission of a signed lease from the landlord of the property.

The city of Watertown pulled the plug on a similar project proposed in a municipal parking lot in January because the city would have incurred up-front costs and would have had to pay for the electricity. City Attorney Robert J. Slye advised the City Council to reject the project after concluding it also would violate the state constitution.

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