I am a taxpayer in the Town of Easton. I am also the owner of two gasoline powered vehicles for which I currently pay almost $4.00 per gallon for regular grade fuel. The price per gallon of gas includes a 47 cent per gallon state gas tax and an 18 cent per gallon federal gas tax. Both taxes are collected to help fund the building and maintenance of roads that are used by everyone who drives vehicles, including drivers of electric vehicles. These electric vehicle drivers do NOT pay gas taxes.
I am very concerned to learn that at a recent Town Council meeting, it was announced that the town will be paying the electric bill for free electric vehicle charging stations. At that same meeting, Council member David Montgomery asked which line item in the current budget is to be used to pay for these electric bills. The response from the town manager was it is not a budgeted item.
After a suggestion was made to close the charging stations, no further action was taken after the mayor said she needed two months to see if there was a solution to convert the charging stations from free to user paid. As a result, taxpayers of Easton will be paying approximately $1,800 to Easton Utilities over two months for charging stations to be available for free to EV owners until the mayor finds a “solution” and Council acts on it.
This kind of government giveaway using taxpayer dollars for “free” programs and services is what I have come to expect from our government in Washington DC. We should not expect or tolerate it in Easton. We should never use tax dollars to subsidize those in a position to purchase electric vehicles. If they have the money to purchase and maintain them, they can and they should pay for the costs of operating them.
There are much larger questions that need to be answered to ensure the best decisions are made going forward on this matter by our elected officials at Easton Town Hall. Those questions include:
Why were the projected monthly power costs for the EV charging stations not included in the town’s budget, a budget that is subject to review and approval by the Town Council?
Why does our mayor need two months to determine if there is a way to convert the EV charging stations from free to user paid?
Why was this determination not researched by our previous mayor and/or town staff before the current EV charging stations were installed?
What will be the costs of converting the current EV charging stations to be user-fee based?
Can a conversion be done by retrofitting the current EV charging stations or must the current stations be removed and replaced?
If so, what will the projected costs to remove the old stations, purchase the new ones and install them?
Is there Council approved money for a conversion or replacement in the budget (proposed and Council approved)?
Why can’t the current EV charging stations be shut down immediately until these operational questions are answered?
Is it fair for Easton taxpayers to provide free EV charging stations for all EV owners regardless of whether they are Easton residents, Talbot County residents outside of Easton, Eastern Shore residents outside of Easton or visitors/tourists from the western shore and other points west and north of Easton who pass regularly through our community? Granted some of these visitors and tourists spend money in Easton, but the revenue they generate for the town government is not as much as one might assume. For example, none of the state sales tax collected by businesses in Easton is remitted back to the Town of Easton.
Why is the town offering a free EV charging station when there are other EV charging stations available in the area, including a supercharger at the Royal Farms on Ocean Gateway at Dutchman’s Lane?
Easton taxpayers deserve answers to all these questions before any further discussions, deliberations and decisions are made by the Town Council on this matter.
Anything less is a slap in the face to all Easton residents who drive gasoline powered vehicles; many of whom may be experiencing challenges in paying their rent, mortgage, property taxes, grocery bills, utility bills, health insurance bills, credit card bills, and bills for other basic living expenses.
It is especially disrespectful to those in Easton living on fixed incomes or modest incomes who are enduring an inordinate burden from high inflation rates on all their living expenses.
Now is the time to pull the plug on a poorly conceived, poorly evaluated, poorly executed, unfair, and unnecessary program.
David Reel is a public affairs/public relations consultant who serves as a trusted advisor on strategy, advocacy, and media matters who resides in Easton.