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Town considers upgrading more street lights with LED bulbs

Riverhead Town officials are considering issuing $1 million in bonds to retrofit street lights with more efficient LED bulbs.

During a discussion at a work session Thursday, Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said potential cost savings are the reason to move forward.

She said the LED bulbs, which have an approximate 20-year lifespan, could save the town $250,000 annually on electrical costs.

Last fall, town officials heard a presentation from Johnson Controls International urging the town invest in building and infrastructure improvements that reduce energy use to save on costs.

“We had talked about it with [Johnson Controls] but other projects involved in there cannot be done timely with this,” Ms. Jens-Smith said.

Based on information from town engineers, officials estimated between 3,000 and 4,000 lights townwide would be eligible for replacement.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio noted that many lights in town have already been replaced with LED bulbs.

“We’ve realized those savings thus far, to the tune of 25% of our utility cost,” she said.

Town finance administrator Bill Rothaar said the town has been paid back for all the LED lights that have already been installed and the current electric bill is “significantly” lower.

“The savings, it’s always a lag,” he said. “It takes maybe a year for you to actually see the savings. They send you rebates.”

Ms. Giglio worried that the measure could impact the town’s bond rating, since the EPCAL sale is still pending.

“That was a bone of contention in all of our financial statements for the last 10 years that I’ve been here,” she said. “We shouldn’t be bonding for things unless we have the revenue to actually pay or it, especially if you’re saying that there’s going to be a lag.”

According to Mr. Rothaar, bonding agencies look at multiple factors before they issue a rating.

According to the supervisor’s chief of staff John Marafino, the savings are based on a shared contract used by the Town of Brookhaven. “We realized we could realize some savings by jumping on their bid,” he said at a work session Thursday.

Ms. Giglio, who asked to see a cost breakdown, bond indebtedness, annual payments and anticipated savings, said she’d like to look into the legality of such a shared service contract. She said generally town’s utilize county contracts but that she hasn’t heard of two towns arranging an agreement. “I just want to make sure we’re doing it right,” she said.

Councilman Jim Wooten praised the idea of sharing Brookhaven’s contract.

“I think government should really try and piggyback more with each other,” he said.

Ms. Jens-Smith emphasized that the sooner, the better.

“You don’t realize the savings if you take a longer time to do it,” she said.

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