Joliet council gets charged up over charging stations

City will pursue federal grant for EV stations for electric vehicles

An electric vehicle charging station is pictured outside of the Illinois State Capitol Complex in Springfield.

Joliet will seek a federal grant for electric charging stations amid a claim that such a development is tantamount to socialism.

The Joliet City Council on Tuesday voted 7-2 to pursue the grant after lengthy debate and intense opposition from Council person Larry Hug.

City officials emphasized that there is no guarantee that the city will get the money to install charging stations for electric vehicles around the city.

But Hug, an occasional gadfly concerning plans that otherwise get city support, argued at length that Joliet should not even pursue the grant.

Council member Larry Hug asks fellow council member Pat Mudron about a meeting he had with other individuals regarding allegations against Joliet Mayor Bob O’DeKirk at the City Council Meeting at City Hall in Joliet on Monday, March 13th, 2023.

“On principle and policy I’m against it,” Hug said. “And, I think most people in Joliet are against it because we are not socialists.”

Hug argued that the installation of charging stations should be left to the private sector and said government-supported stations would compete with those operated by private businesses.

“On principle and policy I’m against it. And, I think most people in Joliet are against it because we are not socialists.”

—  Larry Hug, Joliet City Council

Councilman Cesar Guerrero contested the socialist comparison, noting the city recently approved $5 million to support road projects.

“I don’t consider that to be socialism,” Guerrero said.

Hug’s attempt to block the grant application was supported by just one other council member, Joe Clement, who argued that the matching money Joliet would have to put up for the grant would be better used for road improvements, tree trimming, and other city services.

Clement said only a small fraction of Joliet residents have electric vehicles.

Mayor Terry D’Arcy joined the majority in voting to pursue the grant, saying he did not want Joliet to be left behind in the movement to buy electric vehicles.

Mayor candidate Terry D’Arcy talks to a guest at the Joliet Mayoral Candidate Panel luncheon hosted by the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, March 8th, 2023 at the Clarion Hotel & Convention Center Joliet.

“I really believe we are putting our heads in the sand if we don’t believe we should electrify parts of our community,” D’Arcy said.

The city will apply for a grant to support electric charging stations at up to five locations within one mile of interstate interchanges. The city would have to contribute 20% of the costs, which could amount to as much as $200,000, according to a staff report on the grant application.

City Manager James Capparelli said the debate over the grant was premature, considering that the city may never get the money. If the grant is given Joliet, it will be be brought back to the council for approval.

But Capparelli also said he did not want the city to be left behind in the electric vehicle movement.

“There is a national effort to electrify vehicles,” Capparelli said. “We want to be competitive in that.”