Council OKs millions for LED streetlamps but will pay too much, argues alderman

kt logoCity lawmakers on Oct. 6 approved borrowing $2.2 million to pay for new, more energy-efficient LED streetlights. But one alderman complained that the city could have done the job more cheaply.

The LED lighting proposal has been in the works since last June when the council approved a $15,000 feasibility study by the Latham-based engineering firm C.T. Male. The same firm later bid for, and was awarded, a $500,000 contract to carry out design work on the plan. The bonding approved at the council meeting will pay for equipment and installation; plans call for work to begin as soon as contracts can be awarded and continue through the winter. Eventually, about 2,400 city-owned streetlights would be replaced with the more energy-efficient models, presumably saving taxpayers money down the road.

Alderman Brad Will (D-Ward 3) voted for the bond, but spoke out against the decision to use an outside consultant for the feasibility and design work. Will said that while the feasibility study had projected a 2.2-year payback period — the time it would take for the LED lights to save the city more than they cost to install — the actual figure is over five years. Will added that the cost of the LED lights had ballooned from an estimated $350 per fixture in the feasibility study to an actual cost of about $900 per fixture. Will said the city could have saved time and money by relying on in-house staff or free state resources for the feasibility and design work.


“I feel like we spent the money to do the study,” said Will, “and the result was a much more expensive outcome.”

There are 4 comments

  1. CP

    LEDs are the right move, in my opinion, but how do these numbers add up? I can go to Home Depot, for example, and buy at retail an LED bulb that costs perhaps 6 times as much as a standard one, but uses 1/4 as much electricity and lasts perhaps 6 to 8 years longer. It uses the same bulb socket as my incandescent lights. Assuming that some city fixtures are incandescent, although others may be mercury- or sodium-vapor, how does this cost $900 per fixture?

    Not being snarky, just honestly wondering….

  2. nopolitics

    The answer is whenever firms do business with a government entity, cost estimates always rise later. It’s called bait and switch, and works pretty well. Not being “snarky” but being reasonable.

    1. admin

      I am editorially a little shocked that a $2.2 million thing requires a $500,000 study. I don’t know if C.T. Male is a public company, but if it was I’d buy stock in it. – Dan the editor

  3. gberke

    this sems like an excellent opportunity for the Times to do some reporting: ask Mr Will to present the figures that he believes would have worked and then ask why a much more expensive solution was chosen… there really needs to be an explanation, with some facts…

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