Town goes out to bid as cost of replacement street lamps doubles

Town goes out to bid as cost of replacement street lamps doubles

Decorative lights in Centredale, above, have repeatedly been knocked down over the years, and now the town is going out to bid in hopes of finding a company to replace the increasingly costly lamps more affordably. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)
Lombardi questions if town can continue maintaining them

NORTH PROVIDENCE – More than two decades after they were installed, maintenance of the town’s decorative street lamps has become twice as expensive as it once was, raising questions about the prospects for keeping them in place.

Town officials on Tuesday were set to open bids from companies responding to a request for proposals to replace lights in Centredale and Marieville that have repeatedly been toppled by snowplow drivers or car crashes.

According to Communications Director Ralph Nahigian, there are about 25 such lights that need to be replaced in the villages on both ends of town, and the cost of them has recently doubled, in part due to the pandemic.

At an estimated $9,200 replacement cost apiece, said Nahigian and Mayor Charles Lombardi prior to Tuesday’s bid opening, the estimated cost for just this batch of lights would likely exceed $200,000. Nahigian said the price has gone from $4,500 apiece to $9,200 just in the past year, and by going out to bid for the first time, the hope is to land a company that can acquire comparable lights at an affordable cost.

“The price of them has gone up so much,” he said, and a repair budget the town has doesn’t cover the cost of replacement.

Nahigian said two lights are currently on order after accident claims, and the town has been told it will take 16 months to receive them.

Lombardi said the town might soon have to make the decision whether to simply put a capping plate over holes in the sidewalk rather than continue to put so much money into this problem.

When these lamps were installed 20 years ago, before his time in office, said Lombardi, they cost far less for each, but “now we’re saddled with it.”

Depending on how much Tuesday’s bid came in at, he said, officials will decide whether to separate out installation of the lamps and have town employees continue to do the work.

Following the scheduled bid opening on July 20, the North Providence Purchasing Board is scheduled to take up the streetlights matter on July 29.

“The town of North Providence is seeking requests for proposal from decorative streetlight vendors that can supply and install replacement decorative streetlights that are the same or comparable in size, shape, sculpture, color and design of our existing decorative streetlights in the villages of Centredale and Marieville,” states a synopsis of what the town is looking for.

Bidders were asked to price separate parts of the lights and service, including brackets for planters and replacement globes.

The town has replaced numerous poles in the past few years, often after they’ve been toppled by a plow or car crash. Officials have been able to go after a few people for replacement costs, said Lombardi, but those numbers remain low. Cast iron posts continue to break easily, particularly in cold weather.

Another option, Lombardi said, is adding new and cheaper 4-foot lights that do a good job of illuminating the sidewalks.

Nahigian said in 2014 that the main issue other than the fragile design of the lights is that they were installed too close to the roadway. State officials have said that the light poles needed to meet standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the lights should have been installed on the side of the sidewalk furthest from the street, Nahigian previously said.

The town pays $6.78 per month in power for each light and $28 each time a new bulb is needed. Nahigian said seven years ago that he replaced about 30 bulbs, three transformer/ballast/starters, and two globes each year. The glass globe alone cost $760 at that time, said Nahigian.

Speaking of drivers crashing into things, drivers have crashed into and damaged the newly reshaped Centredale roundabout area three times in the past couple of months, despite plenty of lighting being added to it.

“People are nuts,” Lombardi said.

The decorative lights are designed to break off if struck so that they don’t damage vehicles, say town officials, meaning they do little damage to the car that struck them.

The decorative lighting fixtures were originally installed as part of a state project that also brought new sidewalks, curbs and street trees. Town grant funds at least partially funded the project, and were turned over to the state. Similar streetscape projects were also completed in Chepachet and Greenville.

State officials have repeatedly confirmed that communities have been responsible for maintenance of the lights since they were installed.

The town also has traditional taller streetlights in the areas where the decorative lamps are located.

The Breeze reported last month that the state was taking over ownership of local streetlights on state roads, for an estimated cost savings to North Providence of up to $37,000 for 415 lights.

There are a number of conditions for the state taking over streetlights, including that the community must have purchased them from National Grid and that the lights must have been converted to LED at the cost of the municipality. Nahigian said the decorate street lamps are not included in that agreement.

Comments

Literally a great example of "Why we can't have nice things."

The post bases should be at the back of the sidewalk. The units in Greenville are at the back of the sidewalk, have been there for over 10-years now and not one vehicle strike. The ones in Cheap get are at the front of the sidewalk and have been hit dozens of times since they were installed.

If you do them over, please consider new post top units that don't shed so much glare? Those glass globes glare out 360*, light up and out where so m much of the light doesn't even land on the ground. Be dark sky friendly please.

Glad to see the town is taking this matter seriously and acting in a progressive way to deal with this expensive issue. Good job Mr Mayor and the staff.