By REID TUCKER
DeFuniak Springs will, in about five months’ time, officially go on the map – the dashboard touchscreen map of every Tesla Model S sold, that is.
The DeFuniak Springs City Council on June 9 approved plans put forward by California-based luxury-electric automaker Tesla Motors, Inc., to install six charging stations downtown before the end of the year. The charging stations, which will take up six standard parking spots, will offer free rapid-recharge capabilities to Tesla’s growing customer base, with the location of said charging station to be uploaded to the integrated dashboard displays of Model S owners.
Though the plug-in apparatus of the forthcoming charging stations will currently only work for Tesla cars, company rep Beau Whiteman, who presented Tesla’s plans to the Council, said that will change sooner rather than later. The goal, he said, is to pave the way for greater industry participation in the all-electric automobile segment.
“What we are aiming to do is connect the nation’s highways with fast, free charging stations for our customers and, hopefully, someday for all future electric vehicle drivers,” Whiteman said. “Our CEO has gone on the record as saying that this technology that we are currently pursuing independently is likely going to be opened up to other automakers at no cost, so we are encouraging other automakers to get on board and adopt our plug so their drivers can use these (charging stations) too.”
According to the plan laid out by Whiteman, Tesla will incur all costs associated with installation of the charging stations, and those costs are not insubstantial. Between design, site improvements, maintenance and other concerns, the total cost of a recharge area of the proposed six-spot size hovers somewhere between $200,000 and $500,000. However, users of the recharge stations will pay nothing to top off their cars’ batteries, and will even receive updated information regarding local restaurants and amenities to make use of while they wait.
The Councilmen, for the most part, were enthusiastically in favor of the proposal and accordingly voted 4-1 to go ahead with the plan. Councilman Kermit Wright cast the lone nay vote on the grounds that two of six parking spaces would be reserved for Tesla drivers only, which he said could make it more difficult to find a spot to park downtown. Furthermore, it could potentially make certain vacant retail locations less desirable to prospective business owners, he said.
“If I bought the old Piggly Wiggly I would not want to buy that if the city was giving away up front parking places to any company,” Wright said. “If [Tesla Motors] wants to come in and put in a plant or something to benefit the city other than the possibility of [its drivers] coming in to eat here, then yeah, I’ll play ball with them.”
The ultimate location of the six recharge stations was not decided at the meeting, but Whiteman said Tesla will work with the city to find the best possible place for the installation.
For more information about Tesla cars, visit http://teslamotors.com.
The first City Council meeting of the month wasn’t all electric excitement; the board had its normal share of work to be done as well. The Council unanimously approved a small-scale land-use and zoning change requested by developer Yahootie, LLC, for 8.65 acres located just off U.S. 331 South. The land use changed the property in question from low-density residential to commercial and the zoning map changes reflected a switch from R-1 Single Family Residential to C-1 Commercial Restricted designation.
Councilman Henry Ennis’ move to change the city’s hiring and firing policy also got the majority of the board members’ approval, with Councilman Work the only nay vote. The new plan – effectively the same as the old plan with regard to firing – enables the city manager to suspend or terminate the employment of any employee, though the Council retains the right to overturn the decision by a 4-1 vote. Ennis said his plan “takes the politics out” of the process while also keeping the personal business of city employees out of public meetings.
New hires will still come before the Council.
Other items put to the vote at the meeting included a bevy of requests for upcoming community events. The board granted a fee waiver for use of the Community Center by the Resources for Human Development organization on July 10 and granted approval for the DeFuniak Springs Coin Club to hold a show and sale at the Community Center on Aug. 16. Finally, Walton Outdoors got the Council’s 5-0 vote to hold the 2014 Explore the Outdoors festival at Lake DeFuniak on Oct. 11.
By REID TUCKER