Is Dark Recession The Best Time To Re-Light Downtown Community?

By: Alicia Myers Email
By: Alicia Myers Email

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A central Kansas community is looking at making its downtown more green, with the replacement of energy efficient lights.

The project could replace street and pedestrian lights on 12 to 15 blocks in downtown Salina, saving the city thousands in energy savings in the years to come.

Since the late 1980s, the lights in downtown Salina have been shining on sidewalks and streets. Every time one of them goes dark, it is more money out of the city's budget.

"They're getting pretty old, and in need of replacement. They're aging. We have trouble finding parts, and they're fairly inefficient," said Salina City Manager Jason Gage.

The city is now looking at a greener option of replacing about 350 current lights with LED lights. The preliminary estimated cost of the project is $900,000.

"They estimate from the energy savings, that that would off-set about 2/3rds of that, or about $600,000 in cost, over roughly a 13 to 16 year period," said Gage.

As part of a performance contract, if that savings is not met, the contractor pays the city the difference.

"The city would have to in essence pick up about $300,000. If we looked at that over a 15 year period, it's about $26,000 a year, out of a net budget of about $71 million," said Gage.

Many Salina community members say now is not the time to be spending money on hundreds of new, expensive lights.

"I think it would be nice if we could wait to see where things are going, and everybody is on their feet just a little bit more," said Brenda Yungeberg, Salina.

"Spend it on lights? That's a waste of money, just like statutes were a waste of money. Just like the government, they need to prioritize money," said Alberta Dority, Salina.

Financially speaking, the city hopes the community sees the light now, rather than in the future.

"We will have to do it at some point. The question is when, and how long we want to wait until we're forced to upgrade," said Gage.

If the city goes ahead with the project the $300,000 price tag would most likely be paid by city-issued bonds. The city is also looking into the possibility of applying for federal grants.

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