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Town of Tonawanda considers a bright idea to save money on street lighting

The Town of Tonawanda is considering a plan to spend $9.7 million to buy street lights and the poles from National Grid convert all the light fixtures to LED lights.

Joseph A. Crimi, a senior program manager for the New York Power Authority, said the annual savings would pay for the switch. He noted that the Authority could handle the design, community meetings, construction and disposal of the current lights.

Crimi said the town has 6,055 fixtures. Part of the plan includes an assessment of all the infrastructure. The largest piece of the switch would be a buyout of the infrastructure from National Grid.

The town has sent a letter to National Grid expressing interest in the idea, said Supervisor Joseph H. Emminger.

Crimi said changing over to LED lights is more energy efficient, but the savings do not benefit the town unless the municipality owns the infrastructure.

"The governor's office has asked NYPA to take the lead in changing the street lights," said Crimi. "The governor's office wants to change 500,000 street lights across the state and we are trying to help in doing that."

He presented a bill analysis and potential cost savings to the town.

"From day one, there is no cost out of the town's pocket," said Crimi. "You are free to bond it or pay for it out of your pocket with increased taxes, but you will recoup those costs."

He said the estimated total project cost of $9.68 million, would include a nearly $7 million buyout, as well as installation of heads and fixtures to LED lights. He said the town would save $264,000 per year in energy costs and about $2 million per year in facilities charges.  He said these numbers are only an estimate and the cost of repairs is not part of plan. Emminger said an annual maintenance fund of approximately $500,000 would have to be part of the numbers.

Crimi said the community can be consulted on the types of lighting to be used and offered several options.

Councilman John Bargnesi Jr. said another advantage of owning the fixtures is that they can become mini cell towers for neighborhoods and the town can sell this technology to carriers.

"To not equip them with antennas would be foolish, because that would be a huge revenue source for the town," said Bargnesi. He said the small "bumper antennas" feed off the larger antennas for technology of the future, such as self-driving cars.

Crimi said the LED technology also has advantages, such as allowing lights to be dimmed in certain areas for events, flashing in emergencies, lighting an escape route in an emergency, or giving the town a notice when it needs to be replaced.

The Village of Kenmore is not included in the plan under consideration, but Councilman William Conrad said the village already owns its infrastructure.

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