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By Kevin Beese
Things are looking brighter all around Bellwood.
The village is in the midst of replacing all its street lights with high-efficiency LED lights that not only provide more illumination on village streets, but do so at a cost-saving to taxpayers.
“It’s a big improvement for the village and our residents,” Mayor Andre Harvey said this week. “It’s going to be brighter in the village and everyone benefits from that.”
The village is replacing more than 1,500 street lights in the effort. Work is planned to be completed by Aug. 1.
Bellwood got a state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant to cover 75 percent of the $500,000 price tag for the work. The village’s 25 percent of the lighting project will be recouped in seven to 10 months of lower electric bills, said Peter Tsiolis, chief of staff for the village.
Harvey said he is excited that the village will recoup its cost for the LED lights in just 10 months.
“We will be paying less for energy going forward,” he said.
In most cases, village street lamps are going from 250 watts of illumination to 400 watts of illumination, Tsiolis said.
Harvey quipped that the lights already installed in some parts of the village may be doing their job too well.
“My father lives in town. He said the new lights are brighter than he expected,” Harvey smiled. “He said he needs a darker background, that he has trouble going to sleep.”
“We are lighting up the blocks more. It’s an improvement. That’s the idea,” the mayor added.
Marty Walker, director of the village’s Public Works Department, said that residents will see yellow, non-energy-efficient, high-pressure sodium lights replaced with brighter white, energy-efficient LED Cobra Head street lights.
Harvey pointed out that the new lights have a 10-year warranty so any problems will be handled by the company, not Public Works employees as is the case now.
Village officials estimate that the new lights will save taxpayers $405,000 over the next decade.
Arnie Brown, assistant superintendent of the village’s Public Works Department, said that two shifts of workers – one from morning until early afternoon, the other from mid-afternoon until early evening – are working on the project to get it completed by August.
“We are making the community brighter,” Tsiolis said. “Alleys and streets will be far better illuminated. Residents will see what is going on around them.”
The village’s chief of staff said the project will bring big financial savings to the village.
“We will be saving tons,” he said at this week’s village Committee of the Whole meeting. “We are being assured of the work as we have a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty.”
He said the efficiencies that will be seen with the new lights will go beyond simply the energy costs.
“The lights will all be repaired by the company, not our staff,” Tsiolis said.
The village’s chief of staff said replacing all the village lights is a major undertaking, but one that will be worth it.
“In the beginning, we were not thinking we could do all the lights, but the grant came through and really helped things along,” Tsiolis said.