“From a maintenance perspective, the city’s ready to take them over,” Elie said, adding that future repairs would likely be done faster than under National Grid.
Why are the lights free? Elie said they had depreciated over time, and National Grid is barred from asking for money when a light ballast — a device that limits the electrical current going through a light — is more than 15 or 20 years old.
“If a light ballast is over a certain age, there’s a depreciation value,” he said.
Although the city will soon save a significant amount of money by owning its lights, in the meantime, it’s had to spend more than expected, since everybody figured the deal would have been reached by now. The city recently allotted $200,000 extra to the electricity department to cover unexpected leasing costs.
The city might be able to recoup that money from National Grid, however, by backdating the streetlights purchase, something other communities have done when the company was at fault for delays.
Along with the lights, the city will also assume control of 315 metal poles throughout the city. It will not be getting wooden poles or any poles that have other utilities on them.
Also on the horizon for the city’s lights, officials are pursuing grants to at least partially pay for a $1 million conversion to LED, which could save the city 60 percent of the annual $270,000 it spends on electricity for lighting.
Work on that issue is expected to take most of the rest of the year, Elie said. After that, LED lights could be unveiled one street at a time.