TARPON SPRINGS – The city has signed an agreement with Duke Energy Florida that will see eight electric vehicle charging stations installed at several locations around town, at no cost to the city.

According to Project Administration Director Bob Robertson, under the terms of the contract, Duke Energy will install two electric vehicle charging ports at four public locations: City Hall; the Dog/Splash Park; the Tarpon Springs Public Library; and the Tarpon Springs Recreation Center.

The charging stations are being installed as part of the local utility provider’s new Park and Plug pilot program.

Robertson told the City Commission on Nov. 6 that in addition to costing the city nothing, the entire program will be maintained by Duke Energy through the end of the contract, in 2022.

“Power from these charging stations can be offered for drivers to charge their electric vehicles for free or for a fee, the option of which can be decided at any time,” Robertson explained, adding that at the end of the contract term in 2022, “Duke may transfer ownership of the equipment to the city, at no cost and with no warranties.”

The deal, which Robertson said was approved by the city attorney, was praised by city officials.

“This is something we’ve been working on for a while,” City Manager Mark LeCouris said. “It’s something that we think is very important that the city has been wanting to come to fruition with Duke Energy…as part of what we want to do in our sustainability plan.”

LeCouris added he would recommend the charging service be free for users at the start, “to get this project going and get it promoted…until we see the cost,” and he also addressed questions about the location of the stations.

“I know there’s some questions about where we chose, but you gotta remember, these take up three parking spaces,” he said. “Losing three spaces is tough…so, just to start this program, we didn’t want to make an impact where there’s intense parking, so that’s why we chose these as the best places.”

The three commissioners in attendance were in fully support of the agreement.

“I just want to say I think this is a great idea,” Commissioner David Banther said. “We’ve had people come out recently wanting more green initiatives, and Mark, I know, has been working on those since before I was elected, with solar and whatnot, so I think this is a great step forward.”

After Commissioner Rea Sieber was told the installation of the charging stations would be completed in roughly two to three months, she said, “That’s fantastic. Definitely much-needed.”

For Commissioner Susan Kikta, a longtime advocate of adding EV stations in the city, the news was a long time coming.

“I’m so happy to hear that we’re finally moving forward with this, something I’ve been asking for for a few years now,” she said. “Our city is moving in a new direction and trying to be more sustainable and this is a great step.”

Kikta also inquired about adding additional charging stations in town as well as the possibility of using solar powered charging stations and she was told that both options will be explored.

The item then passed by a vote of 3-0. Mayor Chris Alahouzos and Commissioner Jacob Karr were absent.

“I’m always for things that save energy and help the environment,” Alahouzos said by phone after illness caused him to miss a commission meeting for the first time in his tenure. “This is a very good program, but it’s only a start. I don’t want us to stop here. I’m going to work with staff to see if we can add more charging stations in town and also get solar-powered ports in place. This is Florida—we have more solar power than anywhere in the world, and we need to start using it as much as we can.”

The leader of a local group dedicated to promoting sustainability in Tarpon Springs agreed the new EV charging station program is a step in the right direction.

“I think it’s great the city agreed to bring electric vehicle charging stations to Tarpon Springs,” Turn the Tide for Tarpon’s Dory Larsen said. “We still have a long way to go and a lot of challenges to overcome, but this is definitely a step in the right direction and it’s encouraging to see city official making efforts toward improving Tarpon Springs’ sustainability.