Streetlight issues delay 2013 street improvement project’s public hearing

New public information meeting and public hearing dates set to allow time to review streetlight proposal in project area

 

After a lengthy work session March 25, Champlin City Council decided to postpone the public hearing for the 2013 reclaim and pave street project. The primary reason for the postponement is due to issues surrounding streetlight installation and funding.

The council reviewed the streetlight issue in previous work sessions seeking funding alternatives for the infrastructure costs associated with them. According to City Administrator Bret Heitkamp, the council set a goal during their visioning and goal setting workshop to develop a streetlight funding replacement fund, similar to the water and sewer funds the city has established.

The council initially considered a 2013 street improvement project that would assess property owners $1,972 for streetlights, or 50 percent of the cost. However, with the proposed streetlight replacement fund, property owners in the 2013 street improvement project area would become the first benefactors of the new funding structure which would lessen their cost to $1,000 for streetlights or 25 percent of the cost.

This cost covers the replacement of infrastructure of the base system today which currently includes wooden poles for many parts of the project area.

“Any cost associated with the decorative lighting upgrade would come from the newly proposed fund,” Heitkamp said.

Peter Brown, a resident in the project area expressed concerns about the initial cost but appreciated the council’s effort to lower it. He was also concerned with the type of streetlight chosen — the Syracuse luminaire.

“The excessive lighting will affect homes,” he said. “The lights will shine into my room forcing me to shut my blinds and on summer nights I want to keep them open.”

Forrest Elliott, a member of the planning commissioner also expressed concerns about the Syracuse lights stating he thought they would emit too much illumination. He advocated for keeping dark skies.

Council Member Kara Terry acknowledged an appreciation for darker skies allowing residents to walk out their front door to see the stars. However, she said she was open to reviewing the results of the lesser, softer more consistent lighting of the Syracuse lighting.

City Engineer Tim Hanson provided a document depicting the illumination strength of the Syracuse lighting. It demonstrated the ability to adjust the lighting to be stronger on the street side versus the house side of the lights.

Another issue brought up by Elliott and Brown was the significant increase in the number of streetlights proposed for the area. Currently 16 streetlights are constructed in project area. The number of new streetlights to replace the old ones has fluctuated from 34 to 38. Hanson explained that the new lights are one shorter poles — 14 feet versus 30 feet — and provide an overall softer light that would be more consistent throughout its illuminate coverage area. The current street lighting in the project area provides a stronger illumination at the source and a shorter distance of illumination overall.

Council Member Bruce Miller questioned whether there were too many streetlights based on the overall expense.

“When you ask people do you want more light or save more money they are always going to say save more money,” Miller said. He also questioned whether there was so much crime in Champlin that it was necessary to install light it up and use so much energy to do so.

“I don’t believe in man-made global warming but the cost of the lighting and using energy for no reason is not financially responsible,” he said.

The Syracuse lighting is a standard type of lighting the city implemented using in residential areas more than a dozen years ago. Heitkamp explained part of the reasoning behind coming up with a consistent standard of types of lighting in different areas of the city included fiscal responsibility in being able to stock replacement product and limit the number of various service contracts the city has to deal with for its lighting. If the city uses too many different types of lighting Heitkamp said it could require a new facility just to store replacement stock. A consistent standard of streetlights also provides an aesthetic that serves to create an identity for the city as a whole. Furthermore, Heitkamp said safety was the foremost concern.

“At the end of the day it’s all about public safety for vehicles and pedestrians in area. That’s the bottom line,” he said.

The council has postponed the public hearing to a future date (it was originally scheduled for April 8). In the meantime, another letter will be distributed to property owners in the project area outlining the proposed streetlight replacement fund that proposes to reduce the assessment cost on residents to 25 percent. Administration also plans to provide a suggested area of town that includes the currently proposed Syracuse lighting that would serve as a good demonstration of what the proposed lighting will look like in the project area. The city plans to conduct another public information meeting and then an additional work session to review number of streetlights, type and shielding options.

Mayor ArMand Nelson said he supported the postponement as he would rather take the time to review the options thoroughly. Council Member Ryan Karasek said he would like to find a way to satisfy as many residents as possible, although he admitted it is likely impossible to please everybody with the council’s final decision.

 

Contact Mindy Mateuszczyk at mindy.m@ecm-inc.com

 

PROPOSED STREETLIGHT REPLACEMENT FUND

At a March 25 work session, Champlin administration provided details for funding a proposed Street Light Infrastructure Replacement Fund. Council offered consensus on the funding plan, which was derived from a review of six options provided at an earlier work session held March 11. 

The proposed plan includes the following premises:

• Street light replacement should be completed in conjunction with street improvement project where appropriate.

• Street light infrastructure should be limited to the styles and types of lights that are identified in the approved city lighting standards.

The funding plan includes:

• Fund to be supplemented by an annual transfer of $234,000 that was originally established as an internal loan from the Trunk Source and Storage Fund as part of the Municipal Facility Expansion Project.

• A two percent levy increase in 2014 in the amount of $256,212, which is currently levied for street lighting in accordance with the Financial Management Plan.

• A 25 percent assessment to benefitting properties during a project improvement.

• A Street Light Utility Fee will be implemented in 2014 that is designed to cover the annual operating and maintenance expenditures for the city’s street lighting system.

• Staff also recommends an additional one percent levy increase in 2015.

 
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