2018-07-12 / Front Page

Town has interest in owning street lights

Administration working with Middletown on a plan to save money
BY TIM RIEL

Officials in Jamestown and Middletown are working together to draft a request for proposals that would transfer ownership of the street lights from National Grid to the municipalities.

The town councilors gave permission for Town Administrator Andy Nota to pursue this venture at their June 18 meeting, and since then, he has expanded that conversation to include Lincoln and North Smithfield. Because Jamestown has limited lighting infrastructure, a partnership with other municipalities will expand the economies of scale, which could translate to cost savings if the same vendors were selected. Also, working together allows these communities to “bounce ideas” off one another.

“There’s a lot of value in having additional professional staff at the same table,” Nota said. “More people like that in the same room means a better outcome and better results.”

According to Nota, National Grid estimated it owns 367 luminaries and supporting equipment valued at $5,062. The grand plan is to buy these lights and convert them to LED technology. If the partnership with the other municipalities falls through, taxpayers still will benefit from owning the infrastructure, Nota said.

“The greatest amount of savings is in the maintenance,” he said. “Today, we pay for electricity from National Grid. The company owns the light fixtures and maintains them. We pay an exorbitant amount on maintenance.”

The town pays roughly $67,500 in electricity costs annually for street lighting, which includes maintenance. Nota is not sure what percentage of that is maintenance costs, and said it was too early to determine the possible savings.

“It’s not apples to apples,” he said.

Currently, Nota is working with a National Grid consultant, Rethinking Power Management. The sides, along with Middletown, are discussing the best way to solicit vendors. Once bids are submitted, the councils will independently choose their vendors, which will be responsible for upgrading the technology. The communities also will enter into agreements with those companies to address future repairs and routine maintenance.

“Should we, by chance, choose the same manufacturer, then there would be a multi-town discount,” he said.

Jamestown’s technology director and lead engineer, Mike Glier and Mike Gray, respectively, met with vendors in June, including Acuity, Cree and General Electric. The reps from these manufacturers discussed the specifics, from bulb brightness to pole relocation.

Councilwoman Mary Meagher, however, has reiterated her interest in considering PRISM, a nonprofit organization whose name is an acronym for Partnership for Rhode Island Streetlight Management. The executive director, Jeff Broadhead, is a former Jamestowner who has family in town.

Meagher has pushed for PRISM to be included in the solicitation process, despite uneasiness from the administration. According to Nota, the town has lost two years because it was working with PRISM on this venture, including a paid assessment.

“We really should have new street lights by now,” he said. “ had to do everything within my power just to get a return phone call. We did not feel at all that our needs were being met."

Gray also exhibited apprehension about PRISM.

“Once we own the street lights, we have to maintain them, which means we need confidence that this company is going to deliver, he said.

Since that discussion, Nota said he has spoken to the principals at PRISM and they “satisfactorily” addressed his concerns. Nota agreed to draft a broad request for proposals so PRISM could be included in the bidding process.

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