HAMBURG, N.Y. — A viewer contacted our tip line asking about when a big project in the Town of Hamburg will finally get underway.
It involves replacing every street light in the town, which he thought would be done by now.
On August 23, 2021, the Hamburg Town Board approved borrowing more than $6 million to install more energy efficient LED lamps in more than 4,000 overhead street lights.
The funds would cover the purchase of the existing lights from the utilities that owned them, the new LED lamps, the costs for a contractor to install them, and so-called asset management nodes as part of system that would notify the town if a lamp was malfunctioning, without having to rely on citizens reporting when a light was not working.
The town had been considering the project since 2019.
When it was finally approved 14 months ago, town resident Leo Rudney was enthusiastic.
"LED lighting gives much better light ... and it saves the town a lot of money," Rudney said.
About a year ago he met with then Town Supervisor James Shaw, who he says told him the new lights would be operational by April of 2022.
However, after noticing that the work appeared not yet to have been started, he recently made his way back to town hall to ask about it.
Getting no answers, he contacted 2 On Your Side.
"We certainly share his excitement about the LED lighting project," current town supervisor Randy Hoak said. "However, like many public improvement projects, we've encountered some delays."
The process is also more complicated than one might expect.
First, before the town can purchase street lights from an existing utility, the purchase must be approved by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC).
The commission approved Hamburg's purchase of 2,193 streetlights from New York State Electric & Gas Corp. for $394,732 in February.
Hoak says the purchase of those lights is expected to close in November.
According to Hoak, it is expected the purchase of the remaining lights from National Grid will then follow.
A contractor has to be lined up to do the work of installing the new lamps, and, of course, the lamps have to be purchased.
However, with a number of communities (including several in Western New York) seeking to install them or having already done so, Hoak says Hamburg ran into a bit of a supply chain issue.
"Supply chain issues set things back quite a bit unfortunately," Hoak said.
Because the installation of the new lamps can be done over the winter, Hoak is hopeful the work will be completed within the next year.
While the aim is to save energy and therefore taxpayer dollars, there is also the question of how long the project will take to pay for itself.
According to the PSC, for an average municipality, streetlights may account for up to 40 percent of total local government electric energy consumption.
Previous estimates, from when the project was first being considered, estimated that Hamburg might save up to $1 million annually by installing the LED lamps.