City illuminates both process and walkway
As the city budget process gets into full swing, a public question at city council’s regular meeting Monday night has the city illuminating both the decision-making process and the Millennium Walkway for residents.
A question regarding repair of the Millennium Walkway lights (roughly one in every three lamps needs fixing on the south leg of the pathway after catastrophic floodwaters two years ago shorted the electrical systems – four or five in total) prompted Councillor Florio Vassilakakis to explain why the city is exploring solar versus LED alternatives.
He said repairing the existing LED system will cost roughly $25,000, while the solar option will come with a price tag of around $90,000. While this may seem a no-brainer to a city working so feverishly to brand itself as an environmental steward, Vassilakakis says the issue isn’t black-and-white … or even all that ‘green’, for that matter.
“It’s not like we’re using dirty energy – we don’t burn coal for power to generate electricity,” he said. “We use hydroelectric power, which is green and renewable, and LED lights represent so little power consumption, it’s not that significant a drain on even that.”
He said he brought up the issue when he first arrived on council about a year ago, because his wife and her friends frequent the walkway in the shoulder seasons, when the weather is still warm but the sun sets early.
“It can get really dark, especially in the back reaches of the park,” he said, adding this creates a potential safety issue and makes residents less inclined to take full advantage of the park.
He said the real issue at hand, though, is long-term planning.
“If city council decides to extend the walkway, say to Zuckerberg’s, we would have to decide whether to continue with LEDs or add more solar,” he said. “If we already have the infrastructure (in this case, the power line), it’s far more economical to use LEDs, because each solar post is more expensive. This would make expansion more accessible as an option for the city in this kind of undeveloped area.
“Where solar makes more sense is where there is need for a single lamppost, where there’s no existing power service and installing a line would requiring tearing up streets or sidewalks, like near the Greek Oven in the city’s downtown. In that instance, solar offers a savings.”
When, however, several standards are needed or undeveloped land is being utilized, LED remains the most economical option without sacrificing the ‘green’ designation.
Finally, he said, fellow Councillor Bruno Tassone raised the issue of tree coverage in the some areas of the park, where trees provide enough shade to limit the exposure of standards to sunlight, which is another barrier to the installation of solar standards.
Regardless which direction the city chooses, he said, the city will repair/replace the standards in short order to address the potential safety and reduced-usage issues the broken lights create.