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Easements needed to replace lights

It was about this time last year that the solar lights in Cheektowaga stopped lighting up because of the lack of sunshine.

Since then, residents with the lights in front of their homes have been assured they will be replaced with electric streetlights. They just don't know when.

"We understand it's been slow going," said Betty Falkowski of Eileen Court. "It's making me a little uneasy."

There is talk of easements needed by the town, but Town Attorney Michael Stachowski has been tight-lipped on the subject.

"I don't want to send anything in the mail," he said at a Town Board meeting this month.

Instead, the town wants to hold a meeting or meetings for property owners to explain the need for the easements. Residents who have been active in pushing for replacement of the lights would talk to their neighbors about signing the easements.

Bob Stalker, president of the Dick Urban Community Association, said most residents understand electricity has to get from the supply lines in their backyards to the new poles on the street. To do that, the town needs to obtain easements to perform the work in residents' yards.

"I don't anticipate a lot of people saying no," Stalker said, adding that nearly 1,100 people signed petitions to get rid of the solar lights.

In 2003, Cheektowaga planned to replace 498 gas-powered streetlights with solar-powered lights under a contract signed with Johnson Controls. It was part of a $4.9 million energy savings program that included changes in every town building. A good part of the savings to the town was to come from switching the lights from gas to solar power.

But many residents said the three-pronged solar fixtures were ugly and did not emit much light. Then some of them began breaking, and during a dreary stretch last winter, many of the batteries could not collect enough sunlight to charge.

Stalker said he just wants to get the electric lights installed and doesn't mind suggesting that his neighbors sign the easements.

"They need to know they're not going to get another pig in a poke," he said.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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