If the smiles lighting up the faces of City officials are any indication, the new LED lights that will be installed citywide beginning next month should illuminate city streets like never before.
“Excited, that’s an understatement,” exclaimed Council President Dan Cortell. “Getting LED lights installed, brightening our streets, increasing public safety and doing it while saving energy is exactly what the City Council has been aiming for over the past year. This is one of our top priorities, and here we are ready to realize its achievement.”
Cortell’s enthusiasm was the result of news that City Manager Jay Ash had signed a long anticipated contract to convert the City’s current lighting system to LED (light emitting diode) lights. LEDs provide a whiter light than ordinary street lights, giving the performance and look of increased brightness. Additionally, Ash said that many locations will have increased lumens, or amount of light each fixture emits, to further brighten areas.
“Council has prioritized this and local residents have asked for us to make our streets brighter,” said Ash. “We’re meeting those challenges and are ready to deliver on an initiative that will meet our goals for financial and energy efficiency, while enhancing public safety and the overall attractiveness of our neighborhoods.”
DPW Director Joe Foti, who has led the LED project, reports that 1,627 LED lights will be installed over a two month period beginning in the middle of April.
“City Manager Ash and the City Council have been very clear that this is a top priority, so we’ve done our research, participated in a regional collaboration, interviewed many potential vendors, examined the ins and outs of each of the products that are on the market and have now placed an order and have the contractor in place to begin this project in April,” explained Foti.
Council appropriated $750,000 last year to cover the cost of the purchase. The substantial upfront cost in purchasing LED lights is often a barrier to their acquisition.
“That wasn’t a problem for us, though,” said Councillor Brian Hatleberg, who has been leading the Council’s efforts to work with Ash on solidifying the City’s financial standing so that priorities, like LED lights, could fit into the City’s budgetary plans. “We’ve worked hard to put the City into the type of financial position where we can invest in initiatives that we believe in and have longer term returns. The LED lights represent both of those outputs, as they will improve the visibility on our streets while returning the initial outlay to us in the form of savings down the road.”
Foti reports that the actual outlay for the LEDs will be $580,000, and an agreement with electricity provider NSTAR will result in a rebate of $175,000. With an estimated energy savings of $80,000 annually, it will take five years of savings to recoup the $405,000 net cost the City will spend up front. Additionally, a 10-year warranty on the lights means a reduction in maintenance costs as well.
Ash credited Foti and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), of which he is the immediate past president, for getting the right contract at the right price to him to sign.
“Last year, we thought we would need to spend $750,000, but it will cost us almost 50 percent less, for a better contract. This is what happens when we focus our efforts locally and lead efforts regionally: we get better performance at lower prices,” said Ash, who continues to be a leading statewide force on regionalization.
Chelsea combined its purchasing power with Woburn, Arlington and Natick to get better pricing.
“The financial savings are great, but I’m most excited for our residents, who want their streets to be brighter,” said Councillor Giovanni Recupero. “We need to do everything we can to make our streets safer and LED lights are part of the efforts we are making to do so.”
Recupero and Councillor Leo Robinson say that Ash and Foti have committed to getting the LED lights installed and then going street by street to assess what other lighting improvements need to be made in order to eliminate dark spots that can create public safety concerns.
“The LED installation is the next phase of what we’re doing in our neighborhoods to brighten our neighborhoods and make our community safer. The LEDs we’re installing have the ability to have their lumen output increased, if we find that streets are too dark, and the City will be conducting additional reviews to see where lights should be added in places that don’t have lights yet,” informed Robinson.
Ash and the City Councillors also credited resident groups organized by The Neighborhood Developers and the Chelsea Collaborative for their advocacy.
“This is another example of our entire community all working together to achieve our goals,” stressed Ash. “There is no end in sight to the improvements we can achieve because we have the right process in place to be able to accomplish so many priorities on our list towards making Chelsea an even more successful and rejuvenating place than it already is. Nightly, the bright lights will remind us of that and how we’re all shining here because of our efforts together.”