City, Alabama Power Company may partner on light plan

Published 9:18 pm Friday, March 24, 2017

Brighter days may be ahead for the city of Selma.

The city and Alabama Power are in talks to upgrade light fixtures around Selma and complete a master plan to improve street lighting.

Maurice Raynaud, Alabama Power lighting services manager, and Aubrey Carter, Selma business office manager, spoke to the city council Thursday about the upgrades.

“The city has never had a comprehensive plan for lighting. We have done our due diligence to have a plan — so that we have better lighting for the city of Selma. It improves the quality of living and helps with public safety,” said Mayor Darrio Melton.

Melton is asking the city council to approve a contract with Alabama Power to upgrade street lights to LEDs.

Raynaud said the LEDs would make an improvement in how well streets are lit.

“They are a game changer in the lighting industry. They provide great light, even light down the street,” Raynaud said. “They are great for safety and security. With a LED light, instead of seeing dark shadows, it’s bright light that you can see a long way.”

Instead of just replacing existing light fixtures, Raynaud said Alabama Power would like to study what lighting is needed.

“The main thing we would like to do is to produce a comprehensive plan with a photometric study, where we look at roads, and we determine what is the right amount of light for those roads,” Raynaud said. “That’s the general plan — to make sure we don’t just put up lights using the old technology. That we plan that when we come to a section of town — what does that street need to look like? What should those lights look like?”

Alabama Power owns most of the street lights within city limits. The city pays a flat rate for each of those fixtures. Raynaud said the power company would work to keep the city’s annual costs the same. There will be no upfront charges for the switch to LEDs.

“We would be taking down the old ones and putting up brand new ones. Our goal would be as we go through the whole city — as much as we can — to make sure we are not raising the price, and that we maintain the low street light price that we have always done,” Raynaud said.

Councilman Carl Bowline asked if the city would save any money by switching to LEDs, which burn less energy. Raynaud said while LEDs save on energy and maintenance they are also expensive upfront, a cost the power company isn’t passing on to the city.

“LED is very expensive. They are much more expensive. We try to keep the price low in the front end. We take all those savings and build them into making sure the price stays low,” Raynaud said. “It’s a commitment to the cities that we can keep the price low.”

Raynaud said the power company is also responsible for maintenance and shared an example where Alabama Power had put in 31 LED lights in a community to have seven damaged the next day by lightning.

“That has nothing to do with a LED light, how good it is or how long it lasts. It’s just the nature of lights. Whereas there are savings in LED and we recognize that, what we are trying to do is build it in and build it low and over time the price doesn’t change,” Raynaud said.

If the council approves the contract, Council President Corey Bowie said he would like the upgrades to begin on Broad Street and other major roads.

“I think it would be best to start on the main thoroughfares and work our way into the neighborhoods,” Bowie said.

The council also discussed current street lights that are out.

“Right now, Selma is dark, and it has not always been dark. We need the lighting we are paying for currently to be working,” Councilwoman Angela Benjamin said.

Raynaud said any lights currently out should be reported and the lights would be replaced.

“Our commitment is to fix the lights you are already paying for if they are not working,” Raynaud said. “Our service pledge is within three days we will be out there and fix that light. If it’s a bad fixture, we will replace it with another one until we can put the LED up.”

He said Alabama Power and the city’s public works department would also be on the same page about how many lights are installed and invoiced.

“We want to make sure the billing is right. When we get done, it would be an accurate count. Every time we finish a section — here’s what we took down, here’s what we put up. You guys will get to decide how that fits into the plan for the city,” Raynaud said.