Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and Amanda LaValle, coordinator of the Ulster County Department of Environmental Conservation.
By Patricia Doxsey, Daily Freeman
KINGSTON >> With a gas station on almost every corner, finding a place to get a fill up is no problem for most motorists.
For those driving electric cars, however, finding a place to recharge the battery after a day of traveling an be more difficult.
Ulster County is looking to change that.
Using state and federal grants and county labor, Ulster County has installed nine electric car charging stations at county facilities available for public use.
“We have the most municipal-sponsored locations in the state of New York,” said Amanda LaValle, coordinator of the Ulster County Department of Environmental Conservation.
The charging stations, which were installed earlier this month at locations including the Ulster County Office Building, Golden Hill, the Law Enforcement Center, and Department of Public Works facility in Ellenville, allow residents and visitors to charge up their cars for free.
The cost of the service — expected to run about $500 a year — is minimal, said Deputy County Executive Ken Crannell. And, he said, because the county offers the service free of charge, it isn’t required to pay to have its sites listed on special apps used by electric car owners to find charging stations.
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein said the new electric car chargers could prove to be a boost to tourism in the area, since it will make it easier for visitors, especially from the New York City area, to come to Ulster County because it is within the “normal radius” of an electric cars travel distance.
In fact, said LaValle, the county has already been contacted by someone staying at the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in Kerhonkson, looking for an electric car charging station.
Perhaps more importantly, though, the installation of the electric cars are part of the county’s ongoing effort to become a leader among municipalities nationwide in the use of green energy.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently ranked Ulster County government 23rd nationally in its use of green power.
Ulster County buys nearly 19 million kilowatt hours of green electricity from sustainable sources annually through a combination of renewable energy certificates and utility green power products.
It is the only municipality in the state to garner a spot on the list and is the first county in the state to be net-carbon neutral.
“In addition to Ulster County being named by the EPA as the only county in the state of New York for our efforts to protect the environment, we’ve been able to balance that with some of the highest private sector job growth in the state, proving you can be both fiscally responsible and environmentally responsible,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein.
Hein said the county has been able to achieve net neutrality, and a spot on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list, by “integrating the environment and energy efficiency in everything we do.”
Recent renovations at the former Sophie Finn Elementary School, which is being converted into a satellite center for Ulster County Community College, was constructed to national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards and includes pervious blacktop that allows rain water to penetrate it and percolate into the ground reducing the amount of runoff that goes into the city’s storm drain system.
The county has moved out of buildings that are not energy efficient, has converted its bus fleet to biodiesel, the switched to LED lighting, has installed a solar array at the Department of Public Works building in New Paltz and is moving forward with plans to solar panel arrays at two other county sites within the next 36 months.
“I’ve said you don’t have to choose between fiscal responsibility and social responsibility,” said Hein. “I think we can have both if you move thoughtfully through the process.
Hein also commended the Ulster County Legislature, which he said has embraced his administration’s efforts.
“I don’t believe it is a partisan issue,” said Hein. “I think everybody wants clean air and clean water.”
For more, visit dailyfreeman.com