Don’t drag feet on LED street lights

Warren officials are right to explore switching their city’s street lights from high-priced sodium pressure to lower-cost LED lights, but we are bothered at attempts by some Warren officials to slow the project, as well as the appearance that Ohio Edison is not on board with attempting to save taxpayer funds.

The public utility seems to be more concerned with increases in other costs if the city starts working to reduce the amount of money it spends to power its street lamps.

A “cash cow for Ohio Edison” is how Warren council candidate Greg Greathouse described Warren’s street light program that costs taxpayers about $500,000 per year.

He’s right. Both he and current Councilman Ken MacPherson are adamant the city needs to engage in some hard-nosed negotiating with the utility company that could cut the city’s bill significantly — perhaps by as much as half.

A proposal being considered would start with replacing only a dozen 100-watt pressure-sodium bulbs with 50-watt LED bulbs on Ohio Edison poles on Central Parkway Avenue SE, at an initial cost of $2,736.

Mayor Doug Franklin and some members of council are fearful of what the change might mean in terms of other added Ohio Edison costs. Franklin is calling for council to move slowly on the conversion.

Warren has been notorious for moving at a snail’s pace when it comes to making decisions on cost savings or change. Remember discussions about how to improve the city’s downtown parking program? For more than two years, we have been urging city leaders to investigate parking operations in other cities, including asking about pros and cons of automated, credit-card operated meters increasingly used in other cities. During that time, Warren’s administration delayed efforts to seek new bids for the parking contract so a downtown parking study could be conducted. That still has not been done and, as a result, the city has kept the status quo — dishing out tens of thousands of dollars each quarter to a private parking management company that operates the same taxpayer-subsidized parking program it has for years. In the second quarter of this year, for example, Warren paid Warren Parking Systems $57,528 for parking management and enforcement, according to information released by the city auditor.

Now, of course, due diligence is always important when spending taxpayer dollars. Still, we urge Warren elected officials to act swiftly and aggressively on the street-light project. Before determining it is critical to go out and hire a specialized engineer or consulting firm to conduct a time-consuming light study that likely will cost more than the $2,736 initial 12-light installation project, why not just try converting the 12 lights and see how it works? Or how about taking a common-sense approach by picking up the phone and calling neighboring cities that have made the switch to discuss pros and cons of the product and the cost?

Ohio Edison, likewise, should commit to cooperating with the city by helping utility users and city taxpayers save money as well.

Warren should be ahead of the curve on modern ways to light up its streets, after all. Let’s not forget that with the help of the Packard brothers, Warren in 1890 became the first city in America to light up its city with all electric street lights. Isn’t it time to continue that tradition of innovation by moving forward with a plan that utilizes advanced technology to save taxpayer money?

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