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Rockland Town Is First O&R Customer To Purchase Streetlights

WAMC, Allison Dunne
Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann (seated left) and O&R President Tim Cawley (seated right)

Clarkstown in Rockland County became Orange & Rockland Utilities’ first customer to purchase its streetlights Friday. A few other Rockland municipalities are next in line. The town supervisor says the benefits are both financial and environmental. 

Clarkstown is Rockland County’s most populated town and Supervisor George Hoehmann says its 86,500 residents will soon see those benefits.

“Clarkstown is the first municipality in all of Rockland County, and probably one of the first on this side of the river in the Hudson Valley, that is acquiring our lighting district, the vast majority of our lighting district. And it will enable us the opportunity with the purchase today to immediately find savings of almost half-a-million dollars a year just by the acquisition of the lighting district,” Hoehmann says. “And we’re working closely with the New York state Power Authority in looking to convert our lights to LEDS. We anticipate that that will take place within the calendar year, by the end of next year. And that will bring about an additional expected $450,000 in savings.”

All told, Hoehmann anticipates saving more than $900,000 per year when the project is completed. He says that equates to about a 1 percent tax cut in the town’s $144 million budget.

“The other good news for our residents is that we won’t be bonding for the retrofitting,” Hoehmann says. “We’ll actually be financing at an extremely low rate through the New York state Power Authority, 0.6 percent.”

He says the retrofitting will cost some $2 million, and could start by the end of the first quarter next year. Hoehmann handed over a check for $658,585 to Orange & Rockland for the purchase of the 3,912 overhead streetlights. That leaves about 15 percent the town is not acquiring, which are streetlights fed from underground. The utility poles remain the property of O&R. Orangetown and Ramapo are in line for a similar agreement and others have expressed interest. Orange & Rockland President and CEO Tim Cawley says even if a large number of its municipal customers effect similar agreements, O&R’s bottom line would see little change.

“We have the ability within our tariffs to replace about 2 percent of the lights with LED a year,” Cawley says. “And the proceeds from this sale are for customer benefit. The customers bought the lights so the proceeds go back to the customer. And a provision there would be to take a look at directing some of those funds to acceleration of LED change out.”

Cawley says the streetlights make up a small portion of O&R’s business, so it’s a game changer for the town, not the utility company.

“And to the extent that we can engage with key stakeholders and allow them to make choices and, in this case, it’s a green choice, it works for us,” Cawley says.

Hoehmann speaks to the environmental benefits, which will include reducing the town’s carbon footprint.

“It’s going to be less light pollution. We’re going to really look to, as we’re retrofitting these lights, we’re going to be doing a full light study, if you will, of our streets so there’ll be some consolidation. We might need fewer fixtures,” says Hoehmann. “And, frankly, it’s going to be less stress on the environmental overall.”

Clarkstown is no stranger to energy firsts. In October 2014, the town completed the first large-scale solar field on a capped landfill in the state. Clarkstown’s streetlight purchase comes as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that $790,000 is available for Mid-Hudson Valley municipalities to convert to LED streetlights.

O&R serves electric customers in portions of Orange, Rockland and Sullivan Counties as well as in northern New Jersey.

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