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New Street Lights Might Save $200,000+

Reginald Smith of Johnson Controls as he spoke to Lower Pottsgrove commissioners Monday

SANATOGA PA – A consultant estimates Lower Pottsgrove could save substantially more than $200,000 on street lighting costs during the next 20 years by replacing its 91 aging pole lamps with new energy-efficient models using high-tech, light-emitting diodes (LED).

The township Board of Commissioners, which has spent months exploring the concept and continues to express interest, wasn’t yet ready during its meeting Monday (March 7, 2016) to sign a contract for a full cost and return-on-investment proposal. It asked Solicitor Charles Garner to review accompanying paperwork, and members generally agreed they wanted more time to consider the offer.

President Bruce Foltz, however, thinks moving toward LED lighting is inevitable. PECO, the regional energy company that currently owns the lights the township would buy back to enable the replacements, “doesn’t want to be in the street lighting business any more,” he said. “This is something we have to do.”

Board Vice President Stephen Klotz noted PECO would retain ownership of light poles, because they are part of its electricity distribution system.

Commissioners think the township will benefit by participating in a Delaware Valley consortium of about 40 different municipalities also interested in swapping out their street lights. They invited a representative of the company working with the group, Reginald Smith of Johnson Controls, to outline the plan. Smith described it as “a slam dunk” for Lower Pottsgrove because, unlike other municipalities, it would cover its roughly $27,000 cost over three years.

Smith agreed the township’s existing mercury vapor and high-pressure sodium lights were old and failing, and demonstrated how the LED fixtures generated “brighter, more evenly spread, and cleaner” light across road surfaces. They also would lower energy costs alone by about 60 percent annually, he predicted.

If costs were that low, and savings that high, board audience members openly asked, why not expand the plan and light more streets? Commissioners might consider that later, Foltz noted, but for now the proposal would be limited to existing fixtures only. “We’re trying to keep this simple in the first phase,” he said.

Another future consideration, Commissioner James Vlahos said, might be elimination of the township street light tax. It currently is paid only by property owners who have lights fronting their land, but Vlahos mused the savings created by LED installations could make the tax superfluous.

“Can we arbitrarily keep taxpayers’ money when we don’t have a use for it?” Vlahos rhetorically asked. “That’s up to this board to decide,” Solicitor Garner answered, “once you determine what your costs are.”

Former commissioner Tom Troutman, also in the audience, added he considered the lighting tax unfair. A fixture outside his home illuminates the street “so everyone who passes by is using my light, but no one is helping me pay for it,” he said.

Smith asked commissioners to indicate by next month whether they wanted to proceed.

Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ March 7 meeting):

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