City To Use $400K In ARPA Funds For Downtown Lights

American Rescue Plan Act funds will be used to replace the decorative downtown lights. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

All 53 of the decorative downtown lamp lights, plus 15 spares, will be replaced with American Rescue Plan Act funds after the Warsaw Common Council approved the nearly $400,000 to do so on Monday.

The Board of Public Works and Safety will still need to approve the final contract.

Mayor Joe Thallemer said the need to replace the lights was discovered in October. A man had leaned against one of the lights and it broke, Street Superintendent Dustin Dillon said after the meeting. The city worked with Sternberg, the lamp providers, to figure out why the lights have failed or are failing.

“We’ve got to the point where – Sternberg has been good. They sent a structural engineer to come help with the problem,” Thallemer said, adding that Sternberg offered a discount on replacing the lights as far as cost of materials.

While Thallemer had figured about a 38% discount, Dillon figured around 25% with everything but did not figure in installation.

“It’s still a very significant discount,” Thallemer said. The lights have to be ordered by Aug. 14 to get the discount, Dillon said.

“The structural engineer, they came in and found a problem with the alloy, how these were made. They no longer make the lights in that same style. Now, they’re made with a powdered coating on the inside to prevent this rust and stuff from happening, or corrosion, I guess you would say,” Dillon said.

Some of the lights were installed in 1998, but others were put up in 2004 or 2005.

“So, for them to come back and give us a 25% discount, after all those years, is pretty incredible,” Dillon said.

The retail cost of the lights would be $522,406, he said. With the discount, the cost would be $390,364, a savings of over $130,000. Dillon said they also set aside $150,000 for installation of the lights.

Thallemer said Dillon has done a great job with the lights.

“When this first came to our attention, his crew went out and inspected every light, they graded every light as far as the corrosion,” Thallemer said.

Dillon said they’ve taken down four lights so far.

Councilwoman Diane Quance asked how the new lamps will look compared to the ones the city has now. Dillon said the lights themselves will be LED lights instead of incandescent so the light will be more crisp and they’ll be more energy efficient. The outside appearance of the lamps will be “very similar” to the current ones.

Councilman Jeff Grose remarked he was taken back a bit by the cost.

Warsaw Community and Economic Development Director Jeremy Skinner said the product didn’t work and there were some issues with the product, but the city still got a pretty good life out of them.

“I think the big takeaway here is some of those have been in the ground for 20 years, and they’re still giving us a discount,” Skinner said.

For Market Street, the lights down that road cost around $400,000, he said, while along CR 300N those lights cost around $500,000.

“But, you know, that’s one of the reasons why the school is looking at making that a walking zone, because we have a trail there that is lit. So I think all of those things that we are doing are creating that multiple mode of transportation and lights are a part of that,” Skinner said.

Dillon said the current lights were graded on a 1 to 5 system, with 1 being looking like brand new on the inside and 5 being if someone leans on it, it’ll fall over. He said they had very few 1s or 2s “with this timeframe, especially in this downtown district. So while we’re getting this 25% discount, it’s probably better off.”

Thallemer said the Council allocated about $700,000 in its ARPA budget for the lights replacement. With the discount and installation costs, the cost will still be about $160,000 less than was budgeted for.

Councilwoman Cindy Dobbins said she was happy that the final cost came in less than she anticipated so she made a motion to move forward with replacing the decorative downtown lights. Quance seconded the motion and it was approved 6-0, with Councilman Mike Klondaris absent.