More than one year after the Town of Babylon hoped to have finished installing energy-saving LED bulbs in all 13,250 of its streetlights, it has replaced only 10, town officials said.
Those 10 were part of a 2015 pilot project in Copiague, town spokesman Kevin Bonner said.
The project’s complexity is to blame for the delay, said Tom Stay, Babylon’s commissioner of public works. But the wait could save the town $440,000 off the original estimated project cost of more than $3 million, he said.
“This is pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime project,” Stay said. “I wanted to take a step back and make sure . . . that we’re doing this correctly.”
Babylon aimed to install the light-emitting diodes in all streetlamps by the end of 2017. The lights are more resilient and use less energy than the town’s sodium bulbs, which means less fossil fuel burned to power them and an estimated $900,000 saved annually on electricity and maintenance, Stay said.
But the intricacies of the conversion became clear when the town saw the variety of LEDs available in the bids for the project submitted last summer by vendors, town spokesman Kevin Bonner said.
“We didn’t really have the information to parse which one was correct,” he said.
To rectify that, the town board tabled and then withdrew over the summer a series of resolutions that would have awarded the supply and installation contracts.
“It was a little frustrating, because we put a lot of work into it,” said John Meyer of Greenvale Electric Supply, which was tentatively slated to receive the supply contract. He added that “it’s just part of doing business” and that such outcomes are not unusual in municipal contract bidding.
Now, Stay said, to gather more information in preparation for the project, the town has hired Melville-based engineering firm Nelson & Pope to conduct an audit of all town streetlights and create a design and procurement plan.
The audit will provide data on neighboring land uses, foliage and other conditions at each lamp, which will help the town request the best bulb for each, Stay said.
The new information yielded by the audit, plus the falling cost of LED bulbs, has reduced the estimated project cost to $3.2 million, including Nelson & Pope’s $222,000 fee, Stay said. The original estimate was $3.64 million.
Stay said he hopes the audit will wrap up in May, bid requests will go out in July and installation will be finished by the end of 2018.
The town will pay for the project either through bonds or capital lease financing, Bonner said.
The town has also invited the three villages within its borders — Babylon, Lindenhurst and Amityville — to “piggyback” on its LED contracts, Stay said. Officials in all three have expressed interest.
Babylon is also installing LEDs at parks and buildings undergoing renovations, such as Birchwood Park and the Town Hall Annex, Stay said.
Wyandanch resident and environmental educator Laurie Farber called the streetlight audit a good idea, delays notwithstanding.
“I’m sorry that means it’s taking longer, but that sounds like a smart way to do it,” she said.