Florida Keys News
Sunday, April 7, 2013
City may purchase 4 electric vehicles

Key West might make a switch this year.

A recent run-of-the-mill staff request for replacement vehicles quickly turned into a renewed debate among city commissioners to go electric.

"I've recently been exploring the electrical vehicles; the Ford Motor Company makes a great Ford Focus that has charging ability for over 200 miles," said City Commissioner Mark Rossi at Tuesday's meeting at Old City Hall. "It would be a big step to move forward and show the residents of this community."

Commissioner Jimmy Weekley feigned shock at Rossi, known for conservative takes on many issues, leading the way in the direction of going green.

"Wow," Weekley said on the dais, smiling widely.

"That's amazing coming from Mark."

On the city's table Tuesday was a request by City Manager Bob Vitas' office to buy 11 trucks and sedans at a total of $206,539 for use by parking enforcement, community services and the mail courier.

Rossi asked to postpone the entire order until next month, but staff members said they needed five trucks and Ford Escape sport utility vehicles, so the commission decided to hold off on four of the 11 vehicles to try and bring in electric cars.

"Unless somebody's got an electric F-150 and F-250," Vitas said.

Mayor Craig Cates said it's been several years since Key West has bought department cars, other than for the police.

Electric cars for parking enforcement, which had been in line for four 2013 Ford Fusion sedans, would be "perfect" for the job, he said.

The city courier's present 1997 S-10 pickup has served Key West for 16 years, toting mail throughout the island and up to Rockland Key.

It's had over $4,000 in part replacements and over 120 man hours of labor, staff said.

Commissioners were unanimous, approving $139,943 for three Ford F-250 trucks, two Ford F-150 trucks and two Ford Escapes.

Their next meeting is 6 p.m. May 7 at Old City Hall, 510 Greene St.

Weekley said he supports the switch to electric, but questioned what Key West has to do to ensure it has the staff to maintain and repair them.

Key West has no electric charging stations, although the upcoming construction of a new fire station downtown includes some.

Vitas said it's the front-end cost that's troubling, estimating the electric cars cost double "fossil fuel" vehicles -- from $15,000 to $30,000.

He said he would look into whether tax credits are available for buying electric cars.

Staff members said they have crunched the numbers in the past for hybrid cars and, with Key West lacking the "infrastructure," it didn't add up.

"We have been talking about this for four years," Commissioner Teri Johnston said to Vitas.

"To say that we don't have enough information or we haven't got the charging stations in place is a little hard to take right now. The fact that we are still putting in front of the taxpayers cars that get 17 or 21 miles per gallon is ridiculous. We've got to lead by example."

Commissioner Tony Yaniz said it was up to the commission to make the electric cars happen.

Commissioners Clayton Lopez and Billy Wardlow were pro-electric cars, but cautioned that the departments have deadlines for buying replacement cars.

Wardlow said the next budget season would be a good time to start shopping for electric cars.

"I'm telling you, the way to go here is electric," Rossi said.

"In the long run they're going to save us money."

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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