GPC gets agreement on Westover lights

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany City Commission tentatively approved a lease agreement with Georgia Power to maintain and upkeep controversial street lights along Westover Boulevard.

And while Tuesday's agenda item was specifically to consider the lease, discussion focused more on the lights themselves and what several commissioners called the "overkill" the lights provide along the popular thoroughfare.

"I just think that to have those lights the way they are on Westover is overkill and I've heard from constituents who think it's overkill," Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike said.

City Engineer Bruce Maples explained that when the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission designed the lighting project, they mirrored it after the way the Georgia Department of Transportation had lighted similar four-lane highways with medians and had based the lights on photometric studies of the highway.

Maples also said that the lights seem brighter because the polls aren't staggered like on other city streets. He told commissioners than high-pressure sodium lights typically drop 20 percent of their luminescence in the first 12 months they're in operation.

The lights have been panned by some in the community as a waste of money and unneeded.

City Manager James Taylor said that its hard to compare lighting an open, four-lane highway to a city street or alley because there are other factors, including the age of the previously established lights and bulbs, and trees that block or hamper a light's ability to illuminate the ground.

Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta asked Maples if engineering had considered using LED lights, which are generally more energy efficient than high-pressure sodium lighting.

"We have, but L.E.D.'s have a much more limited scope in terms of how much light they put out. They put out light in a more concentrated area and they're much more expensive to purchase up front," Maples said. "So while they do save money on energy cost, the cost to buy them and the cost to put up extra lights to compensate for their low output make it impractical."

The lease agreement with Georgia Power allows them to maintain and upkeep the lights for $1,097 per month, or more than $13,000 per year.