A notice from Consumers Energy prompted one nearby city to take a closer look at street lights.

The Fenton City Council met in a work session Monday night and talked about replacing 134 of its street lights with LEDs after Consumers Energy notified the city that it had been overcharging for the last three years. Department of Public Works Director Dan Czarnecki told the council that over the last three years Consumers has been overcharging the city by 49 lights, which along with 7% interest added up to $25,800. The city’s attorney says state law only requires the utility to refund up to three years, but it could be more.

City Manager Lynn Markland says the city will look to see if they have documentation proving overcharges for a longer period. He says council will likely take action at its March 20th meeting if they find evidence to ask Consumers to go back farther on the refund.

Markland says the funds will be put toward replacing the most expensive lighting, much like they did in the downtown streetscape project. He says they are looking at an opportunity to reduce their annual operational costs just by using LED lighting on most of the streets in the community. He says they will probably do it in phases because it is an expensive project to do, but if it is done over a few years it is easier to afford. Markland says the street lights in the downtown area are a lot less expensive than they were prior to the streetscape project, and they saved enough to pay for the street lights in less than a year.

Czarnecki told council that replacing 134 mercury vapor lights will cost the city $11,400, which will come from the Consumers Energy refund, and will save over $900 a month. He says additionally there are 259 lights in the city that need to be changed from high pressure sodium to LED, but that would cost $173,000. Markland says even though that would save the city about $1,100 on its utility bills, they will phase in that changeover. Markland says anything the city gets as a result of its investigation will be rolled back into changing over the street lights. (DS)