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'Alternatives' sought to solar streetlights

Those who want to get rid of Cheektowaga's solar streetlights might get some good news soon.

Johnson Controls, the company that installed the lights as part of an energy-saving program, says it is "evaluating alternatives" to the solar lights.

"Johnson Controls has agreed to evaluate alternatives to solar lights, and part of that would involve investigating additional energy efficiency opportunities," said Kari Pfisterer, a spokeswoman for the company.

In 2003, Cheektowaga signed an energy performance contract with Johnson Controls to design and implement a $4.9 million energy savings program. The contract involves saving energy in all town operations, including streetlights.

Replacing 498 gas-powered lights with solar lights was a large portion of the contract, and much of the guaranteed energy savings were to come from the changeover. But when Johnson Controls started installing the solar lights, many neighbors balked. They said the three-way lights threw off less light than the gas lights. The design of the lights, with their solar panels, evoked something otherworldly, and one of the lights blew down in a storm.

"The lights are ugly. They are really ugly," said Betty Falkowski of Eileen Court.

The town halted installation after about 300 light were in place. Officials then attempted to find an alternative that wouldn't adversely affect the contract.

"We're not at that point yet," Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak said. "Everybody wants us to say we're putting in electric lights. That's what Johnson Controls and the town are working toward."

A statement issued by Johnson Controls says the company is investigating providing electric streetlights.

"I think everyone agrees that solar lights have to change," Pfisterer said.

She said the company has found ways to update the contract. Once the town and the company agree on what should be done, the contract probably will be amended, she said.

But those living on streets with solar lights or where they are planned want a promise that they will be replaced with electric lights and a timetable for the change.

"I would like a clear-cut answer," Falkowski said.

Council Member Thomas M. Johnson Jr. said Johnson Controls was investigating various ways to save energy to finance the change from solar to electric lights.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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