City of T or C plans to build electric vehicle charging stations, apparently without market study or cost-benefit analysis

by Kathleen Sloan | April 1, 2021
8 min read
T or C proposes to install four Level II charging stations, such as these located at an RV park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Each could cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 to construct, according to Sun research. Source:

The City of Truth or Consequences will soon enter the electric vehicle charging business, as can be surmised from a publicly unvetted “Request for Proposals” advertised in the Sierra County Sentinel, which specifies that four stations are to be constructed on a site next to the Healing Waters Plaza.

The RFP was issued Feb. 19 and closes May 11.

The city has not presented the project to its citizens, although they will have to pay for the stations’ construction, operation and maintenance, probably out of their electric fees.

During the public comment segment of March 24 city commission meeting, T or C resident Ariel Dougherty brought up the car charging stations, the first mention of the project in a public meeting.

Dougherty has been trying to work with the city’s Public Utility Advisory Board for over a year to amend the municipal ordinance that limits renewable energy production by private solar systems owners. She has explained, in several public meetings, that she personally wants to “get off fossil fuels” by (among other things) owning an electric car. She wants to install a solar energy system at her home that is large enough to charge an electric vehicle, but can’t, since T or C code allows privately owned solar systems to produce only 90 percent of the home’s or business’s previous year’s electricity usage.

Adding insult to injury, residents such as Dougherty and the 53 other local owners of private solar systems will be expected to pay for the city’s electric-car charging business, while being prohibited from generating solar energy that would allow them the option of owning an electric car.  

Limiting individuals’ renewable energy generation development and building city electric-vehicle charging stations go against the city’s October 2014 Comprehensive Plan, Dougherty told city commissioners at their last meeting.  

“The plan states: under ‘Objectives of Infrastructure Goal 6: To allow residents and businesses to harness renewable energies,’” Dougherty said. “The Comprehensive Plan nowhere states that it is a goal of the city to establish electric car fueling stations.”

Comprehensive plans, developed with public input, are supposed to guide land use and city projects. The state strongly recommends comprehensive plans be updated every five years to ensure cities are continually planning and following their plans and aren’t undertaking projects that are not by and for the people. 

The Public Utility Advisory Board, which is supposed to seek community input as part of their vetting of utility projects, has not been consulted about the charging stations, either, Dougherty pointed out.   

“Nor are there any documents of a needs assessment on such a project,” Dougherty said. “Yet I am prohibited from [having a car charging station] through [the city’s limiting] my own potential solar electric use.”

LaRena Miller, director of the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway Visitor Center, also spoke during public comment, expressing favor for city-owned electric car charging stations as a means of attracting tourists. In exchange for providing visitor information, Miller is given space at the Lee Belle Johnson building on Foch Street, which is also home to the languishing Spaceport Visitor’s Center. The Lee Belle Johnson building used to be a community activity center, but is now dedicated to serving tourists.

City Commissioner Randall Aragon agreed with Miller, “I think an electric car charging station is a good idea,” he said.


Will the city will be able to charge a rate that will be competitive enough to be attractive to tourists, but also sufficiently high to reimburse the public purse for the upfront capital costs and ongoing maintenance and operation of the stations?

It is doubtful. Providing a charging service is a poor business prospect, according to a Jan. 25 Forbes article headlined “Can Electric Car Charging Be A Business?”

First, there are the considerations of time and location. T or C’s RFP envisions the construction of “Level II” charging stations, which take an hour to recharge a car for 10 to 20 miles of travel. That means the city’s customers would have to be within easy reach of their hotel or Airbnb and feel comfortable leaving their car for several hours at the charging station.

The Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa and other downtown accommodations are within walking distance of the proposed site near the Healing Waters Plaza across from Daniels Street from the municipal building, but local hospitality providers may decide to offer electric vehicle charging, too, in order to maximize heads on beds, making the city their competitor.  

A residential-type car charger, such as a homeowner or an Airbnb proprietor might desire, would cost on average about $1,200 to install, according to  

Commercial Level II stations, such as the four the city’s RFP contemplates, cost about $1,000 to $10,000 each to install, according to

Property Manager Insider estimates the average cost per station is $6,000. 

SemaConnect, a Maryland-based charging station manufacturer, did not give a price for its stations on its website, but stated that such factors as available electric service, site location, data connectivity, materials, labor, permits and taxes all affect pricing.

To be competitive, T or C may need to house its slow-charging stations in a building that would provide shade and security for vehicles that will presumably be charged overnight while their owners sleep. A building is not specified in the city’s RFP. SemaConnect advises that installing Level II charging stations inside a new building with “stub outs” is less expensive than putting them in an existing building with an electrical system that may need to be renovated.  


The Holiday Inn Express located off I-25 in T or C has six Tesla charging stations, a desk clerk told the Sun. Each station can deliver about 60 to 80 miles of travel in about 20 minutes. The service is free to its guests.

A charging station at a Holiday Inn in Secaucus, New Jersey. T or C’s slow-charging station downtown will have to compete to an unknown extent with the fast-charging service offered free to guests of the town’s Holiday Inn Express at the I-25 interchange. Source: Greenspot EV

Tesla has set up a network of fast-charging stations across the U.S., offering the charging service for free at first and now at a break-even price point of around 28 cents a kilowatt hour, the Forbes article states. Tesla has undertaken this endeavor not because it wants to be in the vehicle charging business, but in order to sell electric vehicles. The city’s slow-charging stations would need to be out of range of, or cheaper than, a Tesla station to make them a preferred tourist service.

The largest vehicle charging business that is trying to make a profit on that service, the Forbes article states, is Electrify America/Electrify Canada. It charges 43 to 55 cents per kilowatt hour for fast-charging stations, a price point that is not yet competitive in an era of cheap gas and hybrid cars.

The vast majority of electric vehicle owners charge at home, the Forbes article states, because it is economical and can easily be accomplished overnight. The slow-charging process takes hours, which is the major reason commercial charging stations are poor business prospects.  

The Forbes article emphasizes that electric vehicle owners don’t travel without first determining the location of stations along their route, as well as their hours of operation, number of fast- and slow-charging outlets, price and condition of the station. Many stations that were built with government subsidies have fallen into disrepair, are in inconvenient locations or are now out of service, the article states. The city’s charging stations must therefore be “networked” 24/7 via a smart-phone app to be viable. Connectivity to the app service is not included in the city’s RFP, but will be an additional ongoing expense. 

Whether T or C intends that its stations will subsidize tourism, break even or make a profit should have been assessed in a cost-benefit analysis made available to the public before the city issued an RFP. The city should not expect residents to subsidize car charging for out of towners without the residents’ consent. Residents are already subsidizing tourism by paying for the Lee Belle Johnson building’s operation and upkeep.


Municipal Lodgers Tax funds are the state-sanctioned means of promoting tourism. T or C contracts with tourism-related businesses, such as the Geronimo Trail visitor’s center, which receive Lodgers’ Tax funds for their provision of in-kind services. It would be appropriate to use these funds to pay for the capital costs and ongoing maintenance of the proposed charging stations.

But, at the March 24 city commission meeting, Commissioner Frances Luna reported that the fund does not presently have sufficient reserves to fulfill this year’s requests for support from the usual Lodgers Tax beneficiaries. If the Lodgers Tax fund is tapped out, the likelihood is that utility fees in general or electric fees in particular will pay for the stations.

If so, these revenues will be diverted from the job of fixing the town’s aged electrical system, whose inefficiency was diagnosed in T or C’s 2014 Comprehensive Plan, prepared in association with Smith Engineering Co. and Consensus Planning of Albuquerque.

“Portions of the distribution network are antiquated. . . . Inherent inefficiencies and the age of the old transformers and distribution network cause excessive loss of energy. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of the City’s annual cost of electricity is due to the losses from this older portion of the distribution system,” the plan’s authors revealed.

The Sun directed several questions about the viability and necessity of the car-charging project to the city commissioners, acting City Manager Traci Alvarez and Electric Department Director Bo Easley. No one responded.

Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at or 575-297-4146.
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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

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