Shamokin to get new street lights downtown
SHAMOKIN - Street lights along Independence Street have been malfunctioning too often, and PPL Electric Utilities will replace the aging system this year instead of waiting until 2014 as originally planned.
PPL hopes to do a majority of the work during the summer, but the project is only in the design phase and a start date is not yet established, Teri MacBride, regional community relations director, said Saturday.
The project is a priority, she said.
"Clearly, we have a reliability issue that we need to address," MacBride said, referencing repeated cases in December and January where some or many of the street lights did not work. "The experiences we had in late 2012 and even January of this year indicate that, although we could create some patches to get through, we need to do the work now."
She said a schedule will come together "very quickly" in the next couple of weeks. She said reports of a June start, however, may be premature as the work will take a lot of coordination, and that materials need to be ordered.
Lights on Independence between Market and Shamokin streets, which
total 47 according to a map at City Hall, will be replaced at no cost to the city, City Clerk Steve Bartos and Councilman R. Craig Rhoades, director of public safety, said Friday. PPL owns the equipment and the responsibility is theirs to maintain and upgrade it, Rhoades said.
Lights, poles, bases and all will be replaced with new equipment that mirrors what's currently in place, city officials said.
MacBride, who said the system is thought to be 40 to 50 years old, said Shamokin, like other municipalities, is also offered the option of choosing more decorative lights for some of the upgrade area, but would have to pay for those.
The earlier system upgrade is good news for city officials, who have been under increased public scrutiny because of the frequent outages. Bartos and Rhoades thanked the utility company for moving the project up in priority.
The lights currently work on separate circuits, one covering from Liberty to Shamokin streets and the other from Liberty to Market. Rhoades said additional circuits will be added to minimize any potential outages in the future.
Hurricane Sandy had been blamed for an uptick in outages since late October, though Rhoades said some lights have been malfunctioning the past several years.
MacBride said it's not known if the storm had anything to do with the system problems. Regardless, with the age of the system, "we are at the end of its useful life," she said. "It's really a case of vintage equipment."
That's why an upgrade was planned for 2014, she said, noting, too, that reliability issues date back a few years. The most recent outages have left the downtown dark and business owners concerned.
Traffic signals have remained unaffected.
Bartos and Rhoades were joined by Public Works Foreman Kevin Richardson and Mayor George Rozinskie for a meeting Thursday with PPL officials. A PPL representative returned Friday for another visit to City Hall.
MacBride said PPL will compress the construction schedule and work to minimize disruption to downtown businesses and to city events. She said PPL will use The News-Item to help keep people abreast of construction details, such as where work will be taking place at a given time.
PPL will also work with SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority, which is planning two more railroad crossing upgrades, to be sure streets and sidewalks are only dug up and restored once in those areas.
She said this is one example of the "major investment" PPL makes to systems in communities throughout its service area. She said discussions are under way in Milton to replace part of that borough's street light system.
"It's going to be a really contemporary system and it will greatly improve reliability," she said about Shamokin's project. "When we get the full scope of the project, we will announce it and would ask for everyone's understanding, because we know it will cause some inconvenience," MacBride said. "But in the end it'll be a really great system."