The street lights in Clintonville that came down several years ago to save money might be going back up.
At its meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 5, the Street Committee unanimously passed a motion to get the necessary rate information to start the project to replace the street lights that were taken down.
Putting the street lights back up was first discussed at the July Street Committee meeting.
At the Aug. 5 committee meeting, committee member Jim Krause said he was in favor of replacing all the street lights that were removed.
“I want them re-erected. I know we can update them and have better lighting than we had before and it will cost the city a lot less than it has in the past,” Krause said.
Krause added that the cost needs to be known and presented to the city council.
“I would like to get this project underway,” Krause said.
Committee member Mary-Beth Kuester added that the city needed to cut other items in the budget to cover the cost of putting the street lights back up.
“So far there have been some additional expenses involved with the investigation. We do have a lesser salary in a couple of places on the city attorney and also we haven’t been paying a city utility manager. That doesn’t mean it’s a good savings [that] we don’t have someone, but we are thinking about maybe saving on that position so we do have some plans for saving considerable amounts of money,” Kuester said.
Kuester said there has been an “outcry” about the street lights.
“This is something I think we could give to the citizens,” Kuester said.
Committee member Greg Rose, who was running the meeting in the absence of committee chairman Phil Rath, asked Krause if he wanted this done before next year’s budget.
“From what we’ve saved from this year’s budget already, I think the cost probably could come out of this year’s budget, I really believe that,” Krause said.
Kuester suggested using money from the Capital Borrowing Fund to pay for the street lights.
Rose suggested that when next year’s budget is worked on that $7,000-$10,000 be cut from other areas, unless revenue increases by that amount.
“I certainly don’t want to be running in debt any more than anybody else here, but I do hear a lot about the street lights all the time,” Rose said.
Brian Ellickson, lead lineman for Clintonville Utilities shared a cost analysis with committee members.
Mandy Kriesel, public finance manager, told the committee she had been in contact with the city’s rate analyst at the Public Service Commission (PSC) because any rate the utility charges has to be approved by the PSC.
“Brian’s recommendations here are for LED lights, which we currently do not have so we would have to get a new rate approved by the Public Service Commission,” Kriesel said.
Ellickson told the committee the sodium lights the city currently uses are relatively efficient. He added that only recently have savings with LED lights been possible.
The initial cost to the city would also depend on who owns the lights, Ellickson said.
“The utility may or may not pay for all of it,” Ellickson said.
He added that each light would have to be looked at on a case by case basis.
Kuester said she’d like to see the process started.
“It would show some progress to the citizens that we’re responding to their needs,” Kuester said.
Ellickson said he had a copy of the rates for all the utilities in Wisconsin that have LED lights and sodium lights, and the utilities with LED lights were paying more.
Rose added that the rates were higher because those with LED lights were paying off the initial cost of the LED lights.
“You can never save enough money on the electric usage to offset the initial cost. I mean if you are going to do this it’s nice to feel green, but if it doesn’t pay for itself, it’s not intelligent,” Ellickson said.
Kuester asked Ellickson if he was saying LED lights would now pay for themselves.
“It should,” Ellickson said.
“It’s a lot closer,” Kriesel added.
“It’s not going to save you enough that you could even justify taking down a sodium light to put one (LED) up because you’ll never pay for the cost of the fixture,” Ellickson added.
Ellickson said the cheapest acceptable LED fixtures he found were $282 each, and they won’t last forever.
“That’s not an insignificant amount of money when you are talking about the number of lights you have here,” Ellickson said.
Krause said he thought that over a period of time the city could replace the sodium lights.
“I’m telling you now it’s not economically viable, as of yet anyway,” Ellickson said.
Ellickson added that LED lights are getting cheaper.
Kuester said the project she was proposing would not replace all the street lights in the city. Her motion was to start the process to get the necessary rate information and start with replacement as recommended by Ellickson and Kriesel. To start with replacement lights and look to the future as savings can be realized by having LED lights.
After the motion, Rose said the city council would want to know where the money was coming from in the budget to pay for the lights. Kuester added to her motion that the money would come from the Capital Borrowing Fund.
Rose then asked Kriesel if the funding was in this year’s budget to start the process.
Kriesel said it would depend on if the city or utility owns the lights. If the utility owns the lights, it would fall on the utility budget, and the lights were not budgeted for in this year’s budget. She also said the lights were owned by the utility when they were taken down.
If in fact the utility owns the lights, Kriesel said the process to put them back up could be started this year, but not much could be done.
Before the vote, it was also acknowledged that the Utility Committee may have to approve this. To keep the process going, though, the Street Committee voted to approve starting the process to put the street lights back up.
The entire city council was to receive an update about the street lights at its meeting, Tuesday, Aug. 12, from the Street Committee.