The Frankfort Plant Board building (The State Journal archive)

Frankfort Plant Board members decided Tuesday to ditch their media campaign for a Tanglewood reservoir replacement but took a step toward installing electrical vehicle charging stations in the city.

Directors voted 4-1 to stop airing a cable and social media campaign that promoted the municipal utility’s preferred option for a new reservoir and asserted its independence from city government. 

They also unanimously directed staff to present plans for three electrical car charging stations, with two charging ports each, to the Frankfort City Commission as a partnership.

Did the Frankfort Plant Board make the right call in stopping its PR campaign on behalf of the utility's preferred option for Tanglewood water reservoir replacement?

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Plant Board General Manager Gary Zheng declined to comment on the decision to remove the reservoir commercial from FPB’s social media and cable programming. However, he said the decision to proceed with a pilot electrical car charging station project is an exciting one.

“We’re a little behind, but we’d like to catch up,” Zheng said.

The vote by the board allows FPB’s engineering department to approach City Hall about a partnership on the project. FPB would contribute about $60,000 for the charging stations and installation of the equipment. The city would provide the locations — on Olive Street behind the old train depot, at the farmers market pavilion and at Juniper Hill Park — and pay FPB for the electricity.

Board member Stephen Mason asked whether FPB staff had approached Franklin County about installing charging stations in its jurisdiction. He noted that the three locations are within about a mile of one another and none would serve the east side of Franklin County.

“Right now, 50% of the population is not relatively accessible,” Mason said. “… I just think we need to get one closer to east side. … If we’re going to pilot, it would be nice to see what the entire county does with access to a charging station versus three within a mile.”

Chairwoman Anna Marie Pavlik Rosen said that there are charging sites on private properties on the far east and west sides of the county.

“The logic of choosing these locations is partially they are locations where there are community events,” Rosen said. “So people from the county would come downtown.”

Board members still voted unanimously for the plan. 

However, they were divided by a vote at the end of the meeting that was not part of the agenda.

Board member Dawn Hale made the motion that the board direct Zheng to stop airing a commercial promoting a 7-million-gallon tank replacement for half of the almost 140-year-old reservoir near the Tanglewood neighborhood. She said FPB, the city and Tanglewood have been trying to work out a compromise on the hotly debated project, and the “rhetoric” needs to reflect a desire to reach a resolution.

“I believe it’s time for the rhetoric of the reservoir to be toned down,” Hale said. “The mayor and city commissioners are not evil politicians, Tanglewood residents are not elitists and this board, while we may not agree on various issues, are all trying to do what’s best.”

Hale, Mason, Walt Baldwin and Jeff Bradshaw voted in favor of the measure.

“I guess I’m ambivalent about it,” Bradshaw said. “I think the message has got across. Perhaps they have run long enough, so I will support that.”

Baldwin disagreed with framing the campaign as “rhetoric.” However, he agreed it had run its course and done its job.

“I do think it is important to be clear that they are factual and they do state the actual issue and they do convey all truth,” Baldwin said. “It’s not rhetoric. It’s all factual information.”

Rosen cast the lone dissenting vote. She disagreed with the measure because it seemed to send the message that FPB had backed off its position in favor of the 7-million-gallon tank.

“If all the sudden the ads aren’t there, does that mean that we gave up?“ Rosen said. “What message are we sending our customers if the ads are no longer there? We’re not backing the 7-million-gallon tank at this given time? Is that what that means?”

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