LYONS — Cities, villages and towns have been paying utility companies for street-lighting services, through special districts, for decades — and not always to the satisfaction of the customer.
Take Lyons, for example. Supervisor Brian Manktelow said that a whole bunch of lights in his town are dark and have been for some time. Pleas to New York State Electric & Gas to replace them have fallen on deaf ears, Manktelow said. The most irritating thing, he added, is that the town must pay for the lights whether they work or not.
That could be changing.
Lyons and other Wayne County municipalities are considering the possibility of buying their street lights from the two utilities serving them: NYSEG and Rochester Gas & Electric.
The initiative to work collectively is one of the first by any county in the state, said Brian Pincelli, Wayne County’s economic development director. He said low-cost financing available through the New York Power Authority would allow the county’s governments to purchase the poles and lights — and, more important, convert them from the old high-pressure sodium variety to energy-efficient LED models that use less energy, last much longer, and have technological features that can react to road conditions.
The best part is that there is funding available from the state, Pincelli added.
“(The Power Authority) will fully capitalize the entire project,” Pincelli told the county Board of Supervisors’ Economic Development and Planning Committee Wednesday.
Once municipalities own the poles and street lights, they would pay a private firm to maintain them. Pincelli explained that utility companies would be paid only for electricity used. The goal is to have towns and villages negotiate the purchase of the street lights as a single entity to gain more leverage with utility companies during sale negotiations.
“This project would make you less betrothed to the utility companies,” Pincelli confirmed.
The ability of municipalities to purchase street-light systems arose in 2015, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Streetlight Replacement and Savings Act into law.
“Energy efficiency is a big part of the governor’s agenda,” Pincelli noted, describing the savings for municipalities as “significant.”
Pincelli said LED streetlights have 30-year warranties, far beyond the life of the high-pressure sodium variety. They provide better illumination too.
Street lighting is a big expense, especially for villages, noted Galen Town Supervisor and former Clyde Mayor Steve Groat. He said Clyde spends about $70,000 on street lighting in its budget.
The conversion plan, which has been endorsed by supervisors from 14 of 15 towns — Pincelli did not divulge which town was not in favor — is in the early stages, but Pincelli said his office is continuing to gather information. He said the county initiative would not affect streetlight buy-back and LED conversion efforts already underway in the villages of Newark and Sodus.