October 31, 2014

AuGres switching to new streetlight bulbs, applying for state funds

By Kevin Bunch
Staff Writer | news@arenacindependent.com
Posted

AuGRES – The AuGres city council unanimously approved replacing burnt out mercury vapor bulbs in city streetlights with high-pressure sodium bulbs at its monthly meeting Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the sale of mercury vapor streetlights and ballasts are banned in the U.S. While mercury vapor bulbs are still for sale, Consumers Energy has a policy of replacing them with high-pressure sodium bulbs.

The state required a vote by the council before the streetlights could be switched over. According to AuGres City Manager Pat Killingbeck, the sodium bulbs are more energy efficient and produce more light.

“High-pressure sodium bulbs should be a bit more economical,” said Killin-

gbeck.

The switch should allow for burnt out bulbs to be disposed of more easily as well, as City Councilman Clifford Warr added that due to regulatory changes, mercury vapor bulbs cannot be thrown out in a landfill due to concerns over mercury contamination.

Killingbeck said when a bulb burns out, the city calls Consumers Energy about replacing it. In the case of mercury vapor bulbs, the call leads to paperwork for upgrading and replacing it.

The old bulbs are turned over to Consumers Energy for disposal.

While the city already has high-pressure sodium streetlights, Killingbeck said they were mixed in with older mercury vapor ones.

“We have a considerable number of (mercury vapor lights)” Killingbeck said. “We’ll probably be going through this periodically.”

The city council will need to vote each time mercury vapor bulbs are replaced. Killingbeck said these are the first mercury vapor bulbs to be replaced in AuGres under the new federal rules. There is no additional replacement cost to the city for the new sodium bulbs, she added.

AuGres Mayor LaVern Dittenber said he initially wondered why the city had not moved over to LED lighting, but learned at a conference in Detroit a couple years ago there would be no cost savings in doing so.

The council also unanimously approved putting together a certification of consolidation, part of the state’s Economic Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP). The certificate is needed in order for the city to receive additional shared revenue from the state.

The deadline for the certification of consolidation is Jan. 1, 2012. By completing this and other benchmarks focused on greater government transparency and changes to employee compensation formulas, Michi-

gan municipalities are eligible for a $200 million pool of state shared revenue, which replaced the $300 million discretionary shared revenue for the 2012 fiscal year.

Municipalities must provide a dashboard of economic information for residents online as part of the “transparency” phase, which was due by Oct. 1. The employee compensation phase has a deadline of May 1, 2012, and requires the municipalities to prove they will reduce retirement and health care costs.

The certification of consolidation must show the city has consulted and consolidated services with other local municipalities, Killin-

gbeck said.

Under the state constitution, Michigan must share a minimum of 15% of its revenue with municipalities based on their populations. A second discretionary portion of shared revenue, the EVIP is, doled out by the legislature.

The program is the brainchild of Governor Rick Snyder, created to help balance the budget and provide an economic incentive for municipalities to reduce costs and share services by tying those activities to the discretionary shared revenue.

To qualify, the state requires the details of everything being done by local governments to save money. Killingbeck pointed out that not every practice has easily determined cost savings.

“Those (programs) came with a price tag,” she said. “It’s not so hard, except they want to know everything you’re saving, to send it in.”

This year, AuGres has received $1,005 in three $335 payments “about 3-4 weeks ago” according to Killingbeck. Previously the city had received around $6,000, she added.

Killingbeck said a couple city practices had been listed in the certification of consolidation, including participation in the US-23 Heritage Route program, which highlights historical sites, businesses, and events along the route. She said the route has been getting national recognition.

The city is also highlighting collaborations with other cities on sharing services, such as the AuGres police, fire, trash pickup, and library services. Cooperative agreements exist with other municipalities to share operational costs, Killingbeck said.

Mayor Dittenber noted that compiling the cost savings details the state requires may just end up costing the city an equal amount of money.

“If you count the time to put this together, we’re probably not saving much at all,” Dittenber said.

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