Shamokin moves forward with PPL for downtown lighting project
SHAMOKIN - City council will cooperate with a plan by PPL Electric Utilities to replace the street lights in downtown Shamokin.
Council voted Monday to acknowledge PPL's intent to move forward on the replacement project. No details were discussed during the council meeting.
Councilman Mike Snyder, head of public works, said after the meeting that construction could begin this winter and completion before next spring, weather permitting.
Steve Bartos, city clerk, said during the council workshop on Oct. 2 that engineering on the project was expected to be completed this month. He said a PPL representative anticipated construction to begin in January.
The city's planning commission had been working since early this year on seeking out alternatives to the PPL option, specifically the purchase of decorative, energy-efficient street lights. It came down to money in the end.
"It's all about funding," Snyder said Monday, "and it's not there."
PPL had placed the city's downtown on the 2013 construction schedule. It was delayed and eventually removed from this year's plans altogether as the planning commission was tasked by city council to further research the issue.
Any further delays may have cost the city a shot at a PPL upgrade within the next five years, Snyder said. Councilman William Strausser said the planning commission has recommended that the city work with PPL on the plan.
It's expected PPL will replace the existing poles and fixtures on Independence Street with what is already in place: "cobra" style poles and high-pressure sodium lamps, referred to by some planning commission members as "highway lighting."
The existing street lights have been in place about 50 years and have frequently malfunctioned over the past several years.
Planning commission members were researching the possibility of purchasing LED technology and had been in talks with several vendors. By purchasing its own system, the thought was that the long-term savings would ultimately pay for the project itself. The cost to the city, though, would not only have been fixtures but also labor for installation.
According to City Hall, Shamokin pays Constellation Electric $12,000 annually for electricity and another $134,400 annually to PPL for distribution charges, which includes maintenance costs and a variable per-pole tariff for each of the city's 664 street lights.
If Shamokin were to purchase its own street lights, it would no longer pay distribution charges or tariffs. The potential estimated savings in tariffs would hypothetically be used to pay down the financing if city council had chosen to purchase new street lights for the city.
While there expected to be no up-front cost to the city for the PPL plan, it will continue to pay the distribution charge.