Local businesses will have opportunity to bid
The Winthrop Town Council wants to see if any local businesses are interested in providing electric vehicle charging stations at the new Winthrop library before signing a contract with an out-of-town firm that is prepared to provide the service.
At their meeting last week, council members supported the idea of charging stations at the new library on White Avenue, which is scheduled to open mid-June, but objected to the exclusive arrangement with Irvine, California-based for-profit company Rivian LLC to provide them. The council earlier postponed action on a licensing agreement with Rivian for two parking spots at the library because of concerns that local companies did not have a chance to compete for the location.
Charging stations are currently available in Winthrop at Pine Near RV Park, East 20 Pizza and AbbyCreek Inn. The state grant that is partially funding the library’s construction requires that charging stations be provided on the site. Jill Sheley — executive director of Friends of the Winthrop Library (FOWL), the nonprofit that raised funds for and is building the new library — said that under the terms of the state grant, FOWL is required only to provide the infrastructure to support installation of charging stations, not to install or operate them. Rivian or any other contractor, not the town or FOWL, would be responsible for operating, maintaining and providing electricity for the charging stations.
Rivian has similar contracts at other public facilities including state and national parks. Winthrop Town Planner Rocklynn Culp said the company is on a national campaign to generate business, and contacted other entities in the Methow Valley about installing charging stations here.
At last week’s council meeting, Mayor Sally Ranzau said the two parking spaces that would have charging stations (out of 42 total spaces in the library parking lot) could be used by anyone if no vehicles were being charged.
Ranzau said the proposed 10-year agreement with Rivian would be a “decent option” for the town, which would not be responsible for any costs. But several council members expressed concern that the proposed arrangement was reached “under the radar” without a chance for local interest or participation, giving an unfair advantage to Rivian.
Council members supported developing a “request for proposals” to provide charging stations. Public Works Director Jeff Sarvis said he had not previously put together such requests, so some research would be required. “We’ll need someone with experience,” he said.
Ranzau said the town staff would come up with a request-for-proposals in the near future. “We’ll see if we can get some more takers,” she said.
“From the early days of construction, members of the community approached FOWL requesting that we provide electric vehicle charging capability,” Sheley said in an email to the Methow Valley News. “We researched the various options and technical requirements, and we concluded that we could cost effectively install the necessary infrastructure for two Level 2 charging stations, with the potential to expand to four Level 2 charging stations. Various pathways exist to meet our environmental sustainability goals, including installing EV charging stations. As we look forward to the many ways our new library will serve our community of residents and visitors for years to come, we hope the Town will take advantage of the infrastructure we’ve provided and install Level 2 EV charging stations.”
In other business, the council:
- Endorsed the Winthrop Planning Commission’s approval of the Methow Housing Trust’s Cascade Meadows North planned development. The 8.4-acre planned development will create 26 lots for affordable single-family homes of one, two and three bedrooms, and a 22-unit multi-family complex being developed in partnership with the Housing Authority of Okanogan County. About 37% of the development would be open space.
- Supported authorizing the use of Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) funds, which are generated by hotel-motel occupancy taxes and must be used to promote tourism, for expenditures related to the upcoming Winthrop ’49er Days celebration. AbbyCreek Inn owner Josh Buehler, representing the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, asked for $1,500 for the band that will play at Saturday night’s street dance, $1,700 to rent a mechanical bull that will provide free rides, and $600 for dresses for the celebration’s royalty. Organizers of the event told the council they would do a better job in the future of bringing such requests to the LTAC and council with more advance notice.
- Agreed to submit a joint application with the Town of Twisp for a state Department of Commerce grant, totaling $50,000, that would be used to “develop an action plan to encourage the creation of additional affordable and market rate housing, targeted to increase the housing stock for those that live and work in the Methow Valley,” according to the grant application. Culp said the towns would hire a consultant to conduct the wide-ranging study. The Twisp Town Council earlier approved the joint application.
The scope of work proposed for 2022 would include a survey of existing conditions including economic factors affecting the local housing market, a review of current and anticipated needs, and an inventory of existing housing that would “identify areas or existing rentals that may be higher risk of displacement/conversion to short-term rentals from market forces.” The target date for completing the report would be Aug. 1.
- Approved appointment of Ardis Bynum to the Westernization Design Review Board.