Gloversville considering street light conversion

GLOVERSVILLE — City officials are considering a plan that would see the city invest in upgrades to its street lights.

During the Jan. 23 meeting of the Common Council, representatives from SmartWatt, Inc. of Ballston Lake were on hand to discuss the possibility of the city turning some street lights over to LED fixtures.

The plan presented would see Gloversville purchase 1,208 of the cobra-head, metal-style fixtures from National Grid and install new LED fixtures and photocells. An additional 35 decorative fixtures would be purchased and upgraded as well.

Wooden poles would remain the property of National Grid. The city would rent space from National Grid on those poles.

The city entered into an agreement with SmartWatt in 2016 to do an investment grade audit of the city’s street lighting system to see if an upgrade to LED fixtures could be done. As a part of the process, SmartWatt did a survey of all existing street lights in the city and did a design of what would be needed.

The plan focused on reducing energy consumption and upgrading infrastructure.

SmartWatt, Inc. Project Director Scott Clark said the LED fixtures have a life of more than 20 years. He said the current style has a four- to five-year life span.

National Grid is also able to upgrade the lights. The lights under that plan would continue to be owned by National Grid and the city would pay for maintenance of the lights.

The city also has the option of not making any upgrades.

The city currently spends about $228,906 on both energy and maintenance charges for the street lights. According to information from SmartWatt, the city would save $166,057 annually under the SmartWatt plan.

According to SmartWatt’s information given to The Leader-Herald, the National Grid upgrade plan would come to $39,940 in annual savings.

Purchasing the lights would be an $836,000 buyback fee. SmartWatt would offer an 11 year financing plan on the project.

Gloversville is qualified for a Clean Energy Community Grant that could help with any costs associated with the project, although Clark said that may not apply to an upgrade through National Grid due to the timeframe.

Clark said at the end of the 20 year life span of the lights, SmartWatt would generate $2.5 million with National Grid’s plan likely coming in at around $750,000.

“We’ve made some assumptions in the cash flow, and they may need to be drilled down a bit. But they are very close based on what we’ve seen from other municipalities,” Clark said.

If the city were to buy the fixtures from National Grid, they would need to contract with an outside company certified to work around high voltage.

“With the LED system, there should not be much maintenance. In the first year there might be some failures, but we would catch those and that would be part of a workmanship warranty,” Clark said. “After that point in time, there is really not a significant amount of maintenance.”

SmartWatt estimated that it would take anywhere from four-to six months to do the upgrades. The upgrades with SmartWatt would be covered under a 10-year warranty.

Fourth Ward Councilman Steven Smith said he was concerned about taking on such a project during what could be tough financial times for the city within the next three-to-four years, and asked if the plan could be reworked to see more savings faster.

“This does sound good in year 11, but this doesn’t really do us any good for this fiscal crisis that we anticipate,” Smith said. “We’re trying to figure out ways that we can save money in order that the shortfall is going to be mitigated.”

Clark said SmartWatt would be willing to work with the lending network to try and generate some additional positive cash flow at the start of the project.

“As long as we are budget neutral or budget positive we can see what we can generate to try and assist you with that,” Clark said.

Department of Public Works Director Dale Trumbull said he wants to look into the plan more and wants to speak with National Grid going forward.

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