MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The Town Board is mulling a plan to save taxpayer money by converting most of the street lights throughout town to the more energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) lights.

Rich Franzetti, the town’s engineer, presented the board with the plan at its June 13 meeting.

“New York State Electric & Gas has introduced a program to convert existing street lights in the town of Carmel to LED lights,” he said. “The town is expected to pay the…costs [of the conversions] and NYSEG will still own and maintain [the lights].”

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Franzetti said when the town underwent an energy audit of its buildings a couple of years ago, the company that performed the audit offered to perform such a townwide conversion, but the terms weren’t as good as what NYSEG is offering now.

“The town would have owned those lights and would have had to maintain them,” he said. “And at the time, NYSEG did not offer an LED tariff. So, you would still be paying the same tariff we do on the existing lighting system and we would own the lights and have to maintain them, and we don’t have the infrastructure here to do that. It would not have been a win for the town. Now, all of a sudden, NYSEG is offering to do LED lights with a lower tariff that will help with the cost savings. And they will still own the light poles and the lights, and we wouldn’t have to maintain them.”

The program is only for service class 3 lights; service class 2 lights are decorative and not eligible at this time.

Franzetti said the program will convert 1,078 of the town’s 1,126 lights at an average cost of $38.94 per light. The total cost would be $41,977. He said it will cover the five lighting districts plus some “undefined” areas within the town. The hamlet of Carmel would see 108 lights converted, while Mahopac would change out 806 lights. The rest are in those undefined areas.

“According to NYSEG, Carmel would save $12,000 a year on land costs and $17,000 per year on delivery charges,” Franzetti said. “And depending on what we pay per kilowatt, there could be additional savings.”

Franzetti said the town has to write a letter to NYSEG confirming its desire to take part in the program. The utility company would then schedule the conversion replacements, at which point the town can choose the wattage and LED colors.

Comptroller Mary Ann Maxwell confirmed that there is enough money in the lighting districts’ fund balances to pay for the project.

“I think we should definitely go ahead with this, no question about it,” said Supervisor Ken Schmitt. “LED is more efficient and cheaper in the long run.”

Councilman Jonathan Schneider, who worked on the project, said technology has gotten better over the years and the town needs to take advantage of it.

“For a few years now, the technology has gotten more and more efficient,” he said. “Three years ago, when we first visited this, it was going to be almost a 20-year return on investment because these tariffs didn’t exist from NYSEG. But with these tariffs now, it looks like we are going to have a return on the investment within the first year. If this comes to fruition, and within the first year we recover the $42,000 in costs, I’m hoping we can get [the Town Hall] done [next]. We may be putting a little bit of money out there, but the return is something you just can’t argue with.”

Councilman John Lupinacci said he can attest to the energy efficiency of LED lights, having changed all the lights in his home, except the refrigerator and the stove, to that model.

“I saw a savings immediately in year one and year two,” he said.

Schmitt said the key is education.

“You have to understand what the benefits are and what the savings are,” he said. “Maybe it’s something we can do [with this project] on a larger scale.”