FREDERICKTOWN — The Village of Fredericktown is considering installing two electrical vehicle charging stations in its downtown district, as part of a renewed effort to increase commerce and quality of life in the heart of the village.
Village Council gave a first reading to the proposal at its Dec. 5 meeting. Council member Ryan Shoemaker, who has spearheaded the project alongside other local partners, said he expects it to receive a full three readings before being taken to a vote in early 2023.
This would allow for maximum public participation during the process, he said.
“I think so far, (feedback has been) pretty good. We brought it up to the steering committee, they loved the idea. They thought it would bring in more people from out-of-town. It’s another way to put Fredericktown on the map,” Shoemaker said.
“When people get on their phones or pull up their car app and they see, ‘Oh, there’s an EV charging station in Fredericktown,’ well there’s not that many in the county. … So I think with the streetscape project going forward, and as we just kind of look to the future and get ready for that transition to happen, (this is) just one more thing that hopefully sets us apart. It can be a good thing.”
If the proposal passes, Fredericktown would become the third municipality in Knox County to welcome EV charging stations.
The Village of Gambier and City of Mount Vernon have both installed charging stations in recent years through an AEP grant program. Gambier’s two-plug station on Brooklyn Street was installed in early 2020; Mount Vernon’s two-plug station inside the Municipal Parking Garage, next to City Hall, was installed in late 2021.
Fredericktown is looking to install two charging stations (four plugs total) – one in the parking lot behind the municipal building and one in the parking lot next to Kokosing Park (where the splash pad opened last year).
“These will be Level 2 charging stations and will be compatible with 100% of the electric vehicles currently being manufactured,” Shoemaker said.
The parking spots where the EV charging stations would be installed would remain open to all, Shoemaker said, under the village’s current proposal.
“Right now, we’re not gonna necessarily designate it as ‘only EV charging,’ so we don’t lose parking,” Shoemaker said.
“I think that was a concern, is that, ‘Hey, you’re going to take parking spaces away.’ … Because we’ll already be losing some parking with going parallel (on Main Street, as a result of the village’s streetscape project). Until there are more EV cars, it’s gonna be open to everyone.”
THE PROJECT: Shoemaker, who serves as the chairman of the village’s steering committee, said the conversation about bringing EV chargers to Fredericktown began this spring.
“We have the steering committee that we put together to make some of the design decisions for the streetscape, to get more community involvement. And the idea had just come up about EV charging stations,” Shoemaker told Knox Pages this fall.
“I had some friends that have electric cars, so we started kind of throwing that around. And we said, ‘Well, with Intel coming in, would this be something worthwhile?'”
Shoemaker, who is also an Area Development Foundation board member, then approached ADF President Jeff Gottke and Vice President Sam Filkins about the idea.
“I said, ‘Hey, do you think this is a good idea/bad idea?’ They thought this is just something else, like another feather to put in your cap, to make you competitive with these new businesses coming in,” Shoemaker recalled. “(It’s) kind of forward-thinking.”
Then came the partnership that would drive the project forward. Shoemaker went to John Walsh, owner of Fredericktown Chevrolet, to “see if he knew anything” about getting EV chargers installed.
“And he said, ‘Actually, if the timing works out alright, General Motors is gonna have a pilot program across the nation and they’re inviting a few dealers in, to get in early, and they’ll pay for 100% of the charging stations, if that’s something you wanna look at,'” Shoemaker recalled.
“So I said, ‘Yeah, let’s look at it.’ … The timing worked out almost perfectly.”
GM unveiled its Dealer Community Charging Program in late 2021. The goal of the program is to “expand charging access in communities, including underserved rural and urban areas where EV charging is often limited or non-existent,” according to the company’s website.
GM aims to install up to 40,000 charging stations across the U.S. and Canada through the program, nearly doubling the current number of public Level 2 charging stations in these areas in the coming years.
Walsh applied for and was accepted into the pilot program this summer. His dealership was one of approximately 50 nationwide to make the cut, Shoemaker recalled.
“We got in pretty early on it, so we were excited,” he said.
Through the program, GM would send Fredericktown Chevrolet 10 19.2-kilowatt Level 2 charging stations. Fredericktown Chevrolet would be responsible for working with community partners to identify the best possible locations for the stations. GM would then need to sign off on site locations before the stations could be installed.
Having been accepted into the program – and having already discussed the idea with Shoemaker – John Walsh and his son, Fredericktown Chevrolet General Manager Joe Walsh, presented the idea to Village Council in September.
Council members were able to deliberate and ask questions in the coming weeks before giving Fredericktown Chevrolet the go-ahead on the program. Village leaders agreed the municipal parking lot and splash pad parking lot would be the best locations for the charging stations, given their proximity to downtown.
“I would say most people that own an electric vehicle are gonna have the means to charge it at their house,” Joe Walsh told Council during its Sept. 19 meeting.
“And so the people that are gonna be downtown or out and around charging them are gonna be in commerce, visiting the stores or working or something along those lines – more than parking it for the night, or something along those lines.”
Fredericktown Chevrolet submitted the prospective locations to GM, and the company approved, giving Village Council the green light to begin voting on the project. Shoemaker said his fellow council members have reacted positively to the idea so far.
“I think everybody’s for it,” council member Scott McKnight said after a meeting this fall. “It’s the future.”
HOW IT WOULD WORK: GM, through its Dealer Community Charging Program, has agreed to provide the charging stations at no cost.
The village, under its current proposal, would pay an estimated $10,000 for the installation of the stations, which are expected to last 10 years. Fredericktown Chevrolet would cover all maintenance, repair and networking costs during that time.
Fredericktown Village Council meets next on Dec. 19 and Jan. 2. If the proposal passes, Shoemaker said the village will look to install the charging pedestals as quickly as possible.
“I think once we pass this, they’re sitting down there (at the dealership) in boxes. And when the electrician can put ’em in, I think we’re good to go,” he said. “We were actually kind of hoping for this year, but that might be pushing it now. But hopefully early next (year), after the first of the year. So pretty quickly, we’ll be getting them in.”
Shoemaker said the village’s EV initiative is part of a larger movement to revitalize downtown Fredericktown.
The village’s streetscape project, which will include newly paved streets, new sidewalks, decorative street lamps and traffic signals, matching benches, trashcans, and landscaping, is expected to commence in 2023.
Several downtown businesses have recently invested in their buildings through the ADF’s facade improvement program (Fredericktown received over $100,000 of the $270,000 available, more than any other municipality).
Kokosing Park, with its splash pad and public seating area, has brought recreation back to the heart of the village.
The village has installed an electronic messaging board outside its municipal building, to keep residents updated on dates and times for meetings and events. The village has also renovated its 107-year-old water tower, which is visible from State Route 13.
“The addition of the EV charging stations will just add to the positive momentum Fredericktown is experiencing,” Shoemaker said.
Besides, Intel is coming. Shoemaker said the tech giant’s decision to invest in Licking County – along with other commercial investments currently occurring across central Ohio – represents an opportunity for Fredericktown.
“With Intel breaking ground and a new $4 billion battery plant in Marysville on the way, Ohio’s landscape is changing and we believe it will be a competition among municipalities to attract new industries that may follow these large companies,” Shoemaker said.
“This is why we believe that the EV charging stations will not only promote our local economy by attracting new customers to shop and dine in our downtown, but it is a piece of a bigger puzzle that may make Fredericktown an appealing place for new businesses.”
John and Joe Walsh warned Council this fall that electric vehicles will soon become far more prevalent in society.
“There are predictions that in a very short period of time, 20% of the cars that are being sold are gonna be electric,” John Walsh told Council this fall. “And I know we’re probably at 2%-4% right now, but they’re talking 20% in just a couple years.”
By participating in this program, John Walsh said, Fredericktown would be positioning itself for the future.
“It’s putting a toe in the water, so that as things continue to evolve and continue to develop, you’re kind of on the cutting edge of it,” he said. “So that then, as we continue to move forward and things continue to progress, you’re in a better position to know what to do, how to respond, how to react.”