By Cole Parkinson
After tabling decisions on whether or not the Municipal District of Taber wanted to sell several street lights to Fortis, a decision has been made.
After being tabled at their May 22 meeting, the request for decision was brought forward again to council during their June 12 regular council meeting.
While the M.D. staff had recommended selling the 46 municipally-owned lights to Fortis, council still had concerns of handing over the lights.
“I still question what’s in it for the municipality, outside of not having to do maintenance. There are a lot of change overs done but it’s not a big thing to do. In all honesty, it’s a matter of disconnecting the ballast and re-wiring them,” said Reeve Brian Brewin.
The 46 street lights in question, which are spread over Johnson’s Addition, Enchant and a number of rural locations on highways, if sold, Fortis would then assume all costs related to maintenance and replacements.
The current lights are under Rate 33 for Fortis which cost approximately $545 per month though the costs may vary based on the retailer the municipality is with.
The offer to buy the lights is at $26,829.50 which would pay the cost difference on the M.D.’s street light bill for around four years.
After the M.D. inquired further about the potential sale, Fortis indicated to administration that many of the lights haven’t been charged correctly.
“Since the Taber/Vauxhall area field staff do not have many of these Rate 33 lights in place, they have not been diligent in tracking and charging the M.D. of Taber for any additional work (other than bulb and photo eye) over the last number of years for these Rate 33 lights. We as a company are presently revisiting this issue and there will be future charges coming your way as our staff are re-educated on this issue. This offer is intended to assist in avoiding any future unexpected costs, as pointed out in the original offer,” said the Fortis letter.
Rate 33 was a grandfathered rate which is now closed and no longer offered for any new lights and Rate 31 is now the regulated rate.
With Rate 31, full costs are covered by Fortis including maintenance and full replacement of lighting systems components for any reasons.
Under the new rate, approximate costs for the lights for the M.D. will be $1,090 per month.
M.D. staff still believes that selling the lights will be more beneficial than keeping them as Fortis still gets paid to do maintenance currently.
“I think it takes the coordination out of the equation. Getting ahold of Fortis every time, trying to get something done because it’s their responsibility,” said Jack Dunsmore, director of planning and infrastructure. “They’re making money off you now. My take on it is, it’s the cost of doing business.”
Sticking with ownership of the lights also presented potential financial obligations including replacements of head fixtures for $400 to $500, replacement of poles and fixtures for around $2,500 to $3,500 and possible cable repairs if any lights are fed underground which could run the cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on locations.
With the lights being high-pressure sodium lights, under Rate 33, they are not part of the LED Conversion Program so they would need to remain as they are.
As high-pressure sodium lights are being phased out, repairs, bulb replacements and maintenance could become a bigger challenge further on.
An eventual conversion to LED would most likely be needed and the whole replacement would be at the M.D.’s cost.
A motion was made to sell the lights to Fortis and was approved unanimously by council.