Ward 4 council candidates clash over EV charging station in downtown Sackville

Table shows that the cost of downtown EV charger has increased by $18,282.52 since June when Sackville Town Council approved installing it subject to obtaining financial support from NB Power and the province

Sackville councillors Matt Estabrooks and Sabine Dietz, who are both running for the single Tantramar council seat in Ward 4, came out on opposite sides Tuesday night as council voted to spend $72,567.89 to install an electric vehicle charger in the downtown parking lot beside the Post Office.

“I do appreciate and recognize the positive environmental optics of installing electric vehicle chargers generally, but it’s the struggle with the use of public money to fund this required infrastructure,” Estabrooks said as he explained why he would be voting against a motion to install the charger.

He also voted against the project in June when council first approved it subject to obtaining financial support from NB Power and New Brunswick’s Regional Development Corporation (RDC).

Acting CAO Michael Beal said that since June, costs had risen by more than $18,000 and that the local contractor, Tantramar Electric, had submitted a revised quote to cover the higher cost of materials.

“We all know what inflation has done,” Beal explained “and the contractor of course could not hold his price for the nearly six months it took [to obtain funding].”

He pointed out that even with the increased cost, the project is well below the $108,000 set aside for it in this year’s capital budget.

Subsidizing NB Power

Coun. Matt Estabrooks participated in the council meeting via an online hook-up

In arguing against the EV charger, Estabrooks suggested that Sackville taxpayers were subsidizing NB Power.

“The end result of this project will be Flo, a division of NB Power, operating and selling electricity to users via a charger that the town of Sackville purchased from them,” he said, adding that the town will also pay the cost of the needed electrical infrastructure.

“Is that a proper use of taxpayers’ money?”

Estabrooks added there are only about 20 electric vehicles in Sackville and if business owners are hoping the fast charger will bring more visitors to town, they should present numbers to demonstrate that the benefits outweigh the costs.

“I believe that alternatives to power our vehicles beyond fossil fuels must be found and supported, but that technology is changing very, very quickly and any specific type of car charger installed this year could be obsolete in a short while,” he said.

Councillor Bruce Phinney said he would also vote against installing an EV charger because of its cost.

“Actually $72,000 to me is ridiculous to take taxpayers’ money for the benefit of approximately 20 people,” he said.

 Need for leadership 

Councillor Sabine Dietz said she hardly knew where to start in answering Estabrooks and Phinney’s “misconceptions about electric vehicles.”

“I’m a bit appalled,” she said and offered to sit down with them along with the town’s climate change co-ordinator to clarify things.

“It shows to me that Councillor Estabrooks and Councillor Phinney do not quite follow world events around climate change, around where electrification of our transportation system is actually going,” Dietz said, adding that the issue is not a long-term one, but much more immediate given federal policies and strategies.

(The federal government is pushing for half of all passenger cars sold in Canada to be zero emission vehicles by 2030 and is requiring a complete phase-out of fossil fuel burning cars by 2035. Meantime, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association says Canada needs to be building millions of EV charging stations. For more details, click here.)

Coun. Sabine Dietz

“Why should Sackville invest in something that currently is very expensive?” Dietz asked.

“As individuals, as communities and as governments, there have to be leaders and there have to be people out front to make it possible for others to follow suit,” she said.

“This is one of those cases.”

Dietz said that voting against the EV charger makes no sense.

“If council votes this down right now, this would be an absolute embarrassment,” she said, “after showing off that we’re such a climate-ready and climate-aware community in everything that we do.”

The vote to approve the EV charging station was 5-2 with Estabrooks and Phinney voting against it. (Councillor Ken Hicks was absent.)

To listen to the eight minute debate and vote, click on the media player below:

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28 Responses to Ward 4 council candidates clash over EV charging station in downtown Sackville

  1. Percy Best says:

    I find it quite shocking that the ACTUAL total project cost is $176,853.89 for only ONE charging station. That is the price for 4 new electric cars like the one that the Town of Sackville taxpayers just bought for the By-Law officer. How is that even possible?

    Are we paying more than anyone else in North America for only ONE charger. And the fact that a great percentage of the electric power for New Brunswick customers is currently being supplied by a COAL fired generator at Belledune, as well as the OIL fired one at Colson Cove, really puts this purchase in question.

    Just imagine what the local food bank could do with $176,853.89. I think we have the local priorities all wrong at this time with this move by the majority of our current Town Council. Thank you Councillor Matt Estabrooks and Councillor Bruce Phinney.

  2. Jim says:

    There is currently a worldwide shortage of computer chips pushing electric vehicles years away from the main stream. I’m with Estabrooks and Phinney on this one, we should have waited until there is a real need for such a power station

    • Tristan says:

      You mean the same semiconductor shortages affecting gas vehicles as well? Pat said it best here, the folks in Sackville who have an EV charge them at home. This charger is to help bring people downtown to spend money while they charge. Phinney’s narrow minded, ignorant approach is nothing new. It shows me he has zero concept of WHO the charger is for and why.
      If TOS is footing the bill for the charger then TOS should be ones to profit of it and potentially add more chargers. It doesn’t surprise me though considering NBP is ran by dinosaurs who get taken by snake oil salesmen.

  3. Susan says:

    Sabine is a one issue candidate. She’s happy to use taxpayers’ money like this. I mean she’d have solar panels on every home if she could make it mandatory…. problem is we don’t have enough homes to even put them on. Especially affordable ones. I am sure all the single Moms will be just thrilled over an EV charger when they are living outside with her children because they cannot find any housing. This elitist attitude we need to get rid of. Let’s vote all of the ones who voted yes off council. People here have very serious issues they are facing. This is not a times to be setting examples on the people’s dime when 20 people will be using it. That EV charger will have no impact on climate change, it’s not like all the students are driving around in Teslas. We have an EV charger all ready at the information centre and several 10 minutes away at Aulac Big Stop, which is now part of our new Town. I’ll be voting for Matt and Phinney. Just because of their common sense. I am so tired of how this town manages the public purse.

    • Jeska says:

      FYI I’ve been involved in affordable housing organizing in Sackville the past year and Bruce Phinney and Matt Estabrooks were both absent at organizing and information meetings they’ve been invited to attend. Who has consistently been at these meetings? Sabine Dietz. Andrew Black, Allison Butcher and Mike Tower have also attended meetings.

      • Susan says:

        Really, all those meetings and still no housing. Maybe that’s why they didn’t show up no one was doing anything. Where are the houses? The meetings obviously are not working …maybe some actual action would be a good idea.

      • Jeska says:

        You can’t get much done without a plan of action and organization. And the only way to get that done is by meeting. There’s a lot of work behind this stuff, it’s not easy in New Brunswick. A lot of spare time contributed by community members outside of their day jobs, time with family, illness, other commitments. Having locally elected councillors show up and participate is immensely helpful.

      • Susan says:

        Yeah good point all those meetings where is that plan can you post it somewhere? Where we can all see it. It must be pretty comprehensive it’s been almost two years of meetings.

  4. Jamie says:

    It’s interesting how these same councillors and mayor “supported” AIL to build a plastic pipe factory in Sackville and still claim to be environmentally conscious. No to a Robin’s drive through, yes to bylaw changes to help bring in plastic factories! As for the charger, $72,000 could feed a lot of people in need. Then again maybe someone’s brother bought a Tesla.

  5. Geoffrey Robert Martin says:

    I am not going to weigh in on value-for-money regarding this EV charger. But I can’t avoid commenting that since councillors Phinney and Estabrooks are so concerned about economy in government, I’ll look forward to their denunciation of the undemocratic 200% pay increase that they both stand to get if they are re-elected. Tell us how you will cut this to a more reasonable level. Our new council will soak up $240,000 per year in salary plus benefits starting this January 1st, which is at least $140,000 per year more than the cost of the combined Sackville-Dorchester councils in 2022. I agree with some of the commenters–many people in Tantramar can’t afford this money grab. At least the EV charger benefits someone outside Town Hall.

    • Susan says:

      It’s the money they waste on lawyers that is more concerning. How many legal investigations did the taxpayers pay for to cancel the medical coverage on a fellow councilor, and clear our Mayor of a conflict on interest?

    • Susan says:

      They don’t get any benefits….well I believe that’s is what Andrew said when I listened in on the CHMA radio debates. That’s a huge chunk of funds removed right there. Cost a ton to pay for prescriptions, dental care, eye care, physio etc…which they won’t be getting any coverage for. When I heard that I said ok the extra money makes more sense now.

  6. Percy Best says:

    A little known fact in this province of ours is that 38.1% of the electrical power that is produced by NB Power is derived from Coal and Oil.

    Belledune Electric Power Generating Station has a maximum output of 467 megawatts by burning COAL.

    Coleson Cove Electric Power Generating Station has a maximum output of 978 megawatts by burning unrefined BUNKER C oil supplied from the Irving storage tanks.

    Total output capacity by NB Power for all their electrical generating stations is 3790 megawatts, of which 1445 megawatts is via COAL or BUNKER C oil.

    So, driving an electric vehicle in New Brunswick, which is theoretically consuming over 38% coal and unrefined crude oil as its energy source is certainly NOT environmentally friendly.

    • Wrayton says:

      Percy, by your own calculations an electric car emits 60% less carbon than an old fashioned petrol car making electric cars MORE environmentally friendly and coal is legislated to be phased out by 2030 anyway so it’s a moot point. The transition to electric cars is happening and we might as well get on board rather than waste our energy opposing the INEVITABLE.

      • Percy Best says:

        Oh I agree Wrayton that we have to ‘get on board’ but the cost of one charger that will be available for downtown is way out of whack with what it should be from all the sites that show what one level 3 charger would cost. Was research completed to see what could have been done to get TESLA on board, or GM, or Ford to supply charging centers for THEIR future vehicles? Total cost of $176,853 is so hard to imagine when it is more than the cost of two Tesla Cars. As you know, the charger will basically be converting AC voltage to DC voltage. What was the cost to install identical systems in other Maritime towns? Those figures should have been supplied to the councillors when they were asked for approval. I believe that the original budgeted amount of $108,100, that council approved, was before any grants were applied for. It has ballooned by $68,753 from the original amount, to the $176,852. Should the quote for the supply and installation work not have been retendered when the company increased it by such a dramatic amount? It was not an estimate — it was a quote. I’m just trying to help look after the Sackville citizens property tax money.

  7. Pat Langlais says:

    The people who own EVs in Sackville all charge at home. An EV charger in town would be to bring in traffic from the highway of people who are NOT from Sackville. The charger in Aulac is frequently backed up with multiple cars waiting to charge. This charger will be used frequently. The thing I don’t understand is, is the town not making any $ from the charging? The charger would pay for itself if the town was receiving a cut.

  8. Tim Reiffenstein says:

    I am not surprised that Bruce Phinney is missing the point on this (nicely expressed in Pat Langlais’ letter above). Anyone remember when Councilor Phinney did his own research about wind energy? But I am sorry to hear that Matt Estabrooks is choosing this as an issue to fight. It’s already budgeted. This is just electioneering and grandstanding towards the heads-in-the-sand voter constituency.

  9. azi says:

    I as a taxpayer in Sackville, prefer to see my money is spent on salaries and medical coverage of RESPONSIBLE councilors. An EV charger is an absolute waste of money and it will not help anyone and the environment when the source of electricity in NB is not environment-friendly yet. At least not justifiable now when there are many other immediate serious issues to deal with in this community.
    In addition, I agree that many members of Sackville’s council have carelessly wasted taxpayers’ money on lawyers, and secret useless investigations. Things have to change in this town hall.

    • Susan says:

      That EV will be obsolete in five years with the advancement of home charging stations and innovative technologies on the front. We should bronze it and put in the Museum of Stupid Ideas. Better yet we should start a museum of stupid ideas; we could fill it up with our councils’ bad decisions.

  10. Erica Butler says:

    Interested where Percy got his 38% figure, as this chart from NB Power makes it look like the emitting sources of power make up about 20% of the supply in NB. Thanks to a hefty source from nuclear energy, of course. https://www.nbpower.com/en/about-us/our-energy

    • Percy Best says:

      Well Erica, the megawatt output of Belledune (coal) and Colson Cove (Bunker C) are from the NB Power site. The maximum mw output of 3790 was a calculation of NB Power’s total generating capacity by their figures. The 38.1% is based on total available generating capacities and not on the amount of mw of energy that was supplied on a yearly basis. The link you show does include (green) hydro power that is purchased from Quebec which I didn’t consider in my calculation.

      • Ronnie says:

        Well Percy, it seems that Erica was right.

      • Rob says:

        Regardless of how NB Power presents its data, it is safe to say that New Brunswick has one of the dirtiest grids in North America. This is not likely to change anytime soon because of entrenched (Irving) interests ensuring that NB remains a profitable and captive market for the oil that is refined (into Bunker C and diesel) right in our backyard.
        We need a nuanced and mature approach to transitioning. Orthodoxy on either side is misguided. Our politicians (i.e., all 3 parties currently represented in the legislature) are truly letting us down on this.

  11. Mike Gallant says:

    Aside from the persuasive arguments above, the new Mayor and Council should initiate a formal directive that voting on spending and amendments to this type and magnitude, be not permitted during an election period.

    • Susan says:

      I agree, but they wanted to get it in under the wire….I am not sure that new council would have approved that type of huge expenditure as there are a lot of rural wards that would never even use EV charger in downtown Sackville.

      • Tristan says:

        It’s not meant for people in town. It’s meant to draw visitors to the downtown core and spend money at our businesses while charging their car. It’s an effort to stimulate business in our community. Did you read the article?

  12. Will says:

    Sabine has to go and anyone who voted for this, while approving a plastics manufacturing plant all while inflation rages (from govt spending and central bank printing) and property taxes are insane. Perhaps she can learn along with the “advisory group” about the mining required for ev batteries, and all the fossil fuels used in creating the car parts, solar panels/wind turbines and shipping them around the world not to mention the electricity sources required to power all these cars.

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