Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cities Turn Off Streetlights to Save Money

USA Today posted a great article on the recession’s latest victim: the streetlight. Although turning off a few lights might seem like no bid deal, as the article explains, it can actually save local government agencies thousands of dollars per month. Some cities are even considering a new “streetlight fee” that could be added to resident’s local tax bills.

The cost-cutting moves coincide with changing attitudes about streetlights. Once viewed as helpful safety measures, the lights are increasingly seen by some public officials and researchers as an environmental issue, creating light pollution and burning excess energy.

In July, Santa Rosa, Calif., started a two-year effort to remove 6,000 of the city's 15,000 streetlights. An additional 3,000 will be placed on a timer that shuts lights off from midnight to 5:30 a.m. Savings: $400,000 a year.

The city boasts that it will cut its carbon footprint. What really matters, though, is money.

Public works director Rick Moshier says he'd already cut his department's budget by 25% when he turned to streetlights. "I can either fix potholes and storm drains or keep paying $800,000 a year for electricity," Moshier says.

Turning out the lights has met some local resistance. Santa Rosa has a hotline for complaints.

"What about the human factor?" says Kenneth Ozoonian of North Andover, Mass. His town is turning off 626 streetlights — about one-third of the town's total — to save $47,000 annually.

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