SANATOGA PA – Lower Pottsgrove commissioners say they’re all for a proposal that could make local streets brighter at night and maybe safer. They’re enthused, too, by the notion the township might even save money in the process. But, they reminded a representative of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, they’d like to see some proof behind those claims.
The Board of Commissioners has agreed to a submit a letter to the planning agency, expressing interest in a “sustainable energy finance program” that would help the township pay over time to install energy-efficient street lamps fitted with light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The technologically advanced devices are said to give off more light, burn less electricity, need less maintenance, and lack the toxic chemicals and gases used in traditional lighting.
So what’s not to like? The relatively high up-front cost of such a system, regional planning representative Liz Compitello reported candidly during her discussion with board members at their May 21 meeting.
About 90 street lights can be found within the township. Swapping them all out for LED-powered models will cost a significant sum, she said. Few municipalities have, or want to part with, potentially tens of thousands of dollars needed to put a new lighting system in place, she admitted.
Which is why, Compitello added, her agency is appealing to government leaders like the commissioners to join a consortium to make financing possible. A new state program will offer loans of between $2 million and $4 million available for LED light retrofitting. Most single municipalities don’t need that much money, but collectively a group of them could leverage a deal.
“It’s why we’re all trying to do this together,” Compitello said. “I think it’s a good program,” board President Bruce Foltz replied.
About 15 municipalities want to explore the idea so far. Others are anticipated; planners are approaching 55 governments with the proposal. Many have the same questions Lower Pottsgrove does, Compitello acknowledged, so the agency is offering what she described as “a really great opportunity” to investigate the potential with minimal risk.
If enough municipalities sign up, she said, the agency will choose an energy services company to analyze the lighting needs of each in two audits and create a “guaranteed energy savings agreement.” In Lower Pottsgrove’s case, it would assure commissioners they could repay the township’s portion of a state loan from current expenses that diminish or disappear with new lights.
Commissioners were told they won’t be obligated to proceed unless satisfied with the details. “We’d want to know about those savings first,” board Vice President Stephen Klotz observed.
There’s more research needed and much more paperwork involved before lights actually go up, Compitello warned. The township also will be required to fully own all of its lights; it doesn’t now, she noted.
While there’s no real urgency to get things done quickly, township Manager Ed Wagner reported the lighting fund has operated at a small deficit during “the last couple of years.” If things go as hoped, Compitello estimated a bond could be issued and the equipment purchased for all municipalities involved by early 2016.
Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ May 21 meeting):