Eliminating O&R should save money, officials say
BY ROBERT KNIGHT
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
Orangetown is proceeding with buying its own street lights at a potential savings of nearly $350,000 annually over what the town now pays Orange & Rockland Utilities for that same service.
An update on the plan was given to the Town Board Tuesday evening by Jesse Scott, municipal program manager for the New York Power Authority.
NYPA first contracted with Clarkstown to perform the same service, and is currently converting the City of White Plains. His office is in White Plains, Scott said, from which he and his staff will coordinate a similar conversions from private to public street lighting in municipalities throughout the lower Hudson River Valley.
Scott described NYPA as America’s largest state public power organization that is able to generate the cheapest renewable electricity in the nation. It maintains 16 generating facilities and over 1,400 circuit miles of transmission lines. He said the agency is the national leader in promoting energy efficiency and the use of renewable and clean energy technologies.
Serving private business and non-profit organizations as well as local governments, Scott said NYPA’s low-cost power “helps support hundreds of thousands of jobs statewide while reducing public-sector costs.”
In the case of Orangetown, he said by having the town buy all existing street lights from O&R, and then converting them into lower wattage and cost fixtures, the town will save about $342,975 in actual costs yearly over the current bill they receive from Orange & Rockland.
The estimated total cost to Orangetown for the conversion is $1,894,094, Scott said, which will be amortized over 6.71 years. After the cost is paid for, the town will save even more money annually, and will have total control over its own street lighting, being able to adjust brightness at each of 2,260 utility poles throughout the township.
Supervisor Stewart said, “town purchase of streetlights from O&R and conversion to long lasting LED fixtures saves us money in two ways: it dramatically decreases O&R’s charge for delivery of electricity, and it decreases the amount of electricity we use. Good for our budget, good for the environment, and good for our quality of life and public safety.”
The new “cobra head” light fixtures will have high efficiency LED bulbs, the number of which, and their brightness, direction and screening can be individually controlled at each pole.
For their fee to Orangetown, Scott said NYPA would conduct a pole-by-pole survey, design the new system, provide construction management, handle all financing costs, obtain state and federal assistance to further reduce the town’s costs and provide a labor warranty.
No up-front money is required from Orangetown, with NYPA providing all financing costs, and the town just reaping the financial rewards in savings.
Scott said the project is underway and the town will actually own the streetlights on July 1. New fixtures will be ordered August 1, engineering work will be finished by Sept. 1 and the new fixtures will be delivered to the town Sept. 15.
Installation of the 2,260 new lights will take three months, with a deadline of completing the project by Dec. 15.
In another presentation to the Town Board Tuesday, Carol Baxter gave the council an update on the latest proposal to upgrade the intersection of Route 9W and Oak Tree Road, currently considered one of the most dangerous intersections in the entire township. Baxter asked the town board to vote in favor of a resolution on the agenda calling upon the New York State Department of Transportation, which owns Rte 9W, to make certain safety upgrades. Members of the town board committed to supporting the measure when it comes up for vote on Tuesday, May 16.
The busy corner has dozens of serious accidents annually, Baxter said, generally caused by speeding motorists heading north and south on the county’s only federal highway. The New York State Department of Transportation has been consulting with an ad hoc committee of local residents created by the Town Board years ago to try and solve the problem, and the group has now come up with a lengthy list of recommendations on how to improve vehicular and pedestrian safety at the dangerous intersection.
The town’s highway and police departments have also been involved and concur with the recommendations, Baxter said.
Among the improvements are lowering the speed limit on 9W, installing left-turn arrows at Oak Tree Road on north and south-bound 9W, painting and/or scoring the pavement approaching the intersection to warn approaching motorists to slow down, staggering the traffic light to allow more time for motorists and pedestrians on Oak Tree to cross the busy federal highway and narrowing the pavement on 9W from four to two lanes at the intersection.
Supervisor Stewart commended Baxter and her neighbors on their leadership, the town’s Traffic Advisory Board for its work developing the recommendations in partnership with the neighborhood, and thanked the town board for supporting the resolution calling for NYS DOT to address the safety issues.
In a separate road report, Highway Superintendent James Dean told the council he would present his department’s annual awards at the board’s next meeting, Tuesday, May 16. The Highway Department will also holds its 21st annual open house at its garage and warehouse facility off Route 303 in Orangeburg the following Saturday, May 20, from 10 a.m. until 12 noon.
Visitors, and especially children, will be able to safely climb over, under and inside of the departments’ huge vehicles and equipment, get free refreshments and souvenirs, watch live demonstrations of the equipment and learn how each vehicle is used to maintain the town’s thousands of miles of local streets. The first 50 children in attendance will also receive Highway Helper T-shirts.
Special guests this year, Dean said, will be the Orangetown Police Department and its DARE officers, Cornell Cooperative Extension Service, Keep Rockland Beautiful, the Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority and the Stormwater Consortium of Rockland County.
Orangetown Supervisor Andrew Stewart also advised the board that state funding is becoming available again for various capital spending projects, and he would like to see the town apply for some of these grants.
The grants cover projects contemplated within the Sewer, Highway and Parks and Recreation Departments, as well as long-contemplated individual projects such as construction of a commuter parking lot off Route 340 in Sparkill, construction of new sidewalks in Pearl River, Tappan and other hamlet centers
Board members concurred on the concept, and gave Stewart authority to contract with the town’s professional fund-raiser to begin preparing draft grant applications to various state and federal agencies. Some will be through the Consolidated Funding Application process while others may be individual requests.
A final report was given to the board by Carol LaValle of the Tappantown Historical Society and the town’s historical review board and two historic districts on proposed changes to the town’s historical ordinances. These changes would clarify the prohibition on neon signs in the historic areas and provide for a greater degree of public notice in cases of demolition of older houses in the historic areas.
The changes have been contemplated for the past two or three years, LaValle said, and have now reached the consensus stage among all interested parties.
LaValle stressed that the proposed changes are “minor” in nature, and attempt to clarify and simplify the current regulations to make them easier to understand, follow and enforce by various town agencies, contractors and property owners within the Tappan and Palisades Historic Districts.
The town board showed its support for setting a date for a public hearing on the proposed changes to the towns historic areas laws.
Stewart also announced that a presentation would be made to the board at its next business meeting, Tuesday, May 16, by FB Orangetown, regarding changes they have made to their master plan for their “Orangeburg Commons” property between Route 303 and Western Highway in Orangeburg. The multi-acre site, formerly home of the Orangeburg Manufacturing Company and Flintkote, currently hosts a Lowe’s, Stop and Shop Supermarket and hotel.
FB Orangetown, the owner and developer of the site, has also acquired the adjacent historic Abram Lent property, following the contentious demolition of a pre-Revolutionary War Dutch sandstone home that previously stood there. The firm already has approvals for building a restaurant and a mini-strip mall on the site, but would like a zoning amendment enabling them to make the restaurant a “fast food” restaurant with a drive-through window, and substituting a childcare center for the strip retail development.
Stewart explained that the firm wants to expand the “permitted uses” clause of their site plan to include those two businesses.
In the only business conducted at what was otherwise a workshop meeting Tuesday the board unanimously agreed to hire clerk Stephanie Tasselo as the permanent principal clerk in the town’s finance department, to assist finance director Jeff Bencik. There will be no change in her salary.