And Brookhaven Town said: “Let there be light.”
The town unanimously approved a resolution at its Feb. 8 board meeting authorizing the repurposing of unused funds received as part of a 2009 grant to the town-wide street lighting fixture replacement capital project.
The town began the process of replacing old, high-wattage street lights with LED, energy-efficient ones in 2013. In 2015, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) announced a five-year, capital plan, called the Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Initiative, which was established with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2020. An estimated $1.45 million of that plan was slated for street lighting fixes. The Feb. 8 authorization to repurpose the funds added $943,000 to aid in the upgrades. The new LED street lights — white light that increases visibility for drivers and in turn increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclists on the roadways — increase energy efficiency and reduce costs for taxpayers by decreasing electricity used. Romaine said during a Feb. 5 board work session about 6,000 of the town’s 40,000 street lights have been upgraded, and are estimated to have a 15-year lifespan.
The unused money was left over from the Energy Department’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, allocated to the town in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to fund the town’s green homes and go solar initiatives. Brookhaven received more than $4 million to fund the two — green homes seeks to help residents make their homes more efficient at little or no cost, and go solar pays town residents’ upfront costs for solar panel installation.
As a result of the funds being repurposed, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) questioned whether or not this would be the end of the green homes and go solar programs. The money that will be saved will allow for funds to become available to create a replacement program that will aid in energy efficiency, according to Cartright.
“One of my concerns when I saw this was on the agenda, was that I was hoping this repurposing would not mark the end of these types of programs,” Cartright said during the meeting. “But I’m happy to announce after speaking to the supervisor and our Housing and Human Services Department, and of course our commissioner of finance, it looks like we may be able to create basically a town-sponsored grant, where there will be revolving loans, which would also help individual homeowners have more energy efficient homes, as well as including a component of upgrading sanitary systems. We’re looking into all of the details here and plan to form a committee.”
Romaine announced the plan is to establish a program that would allow for these initiatives to potentially continue, through energy efficiency audits made available for town homeowners, even providing funding to do upgrades. Romaine said the details are still being worked out and will be officially announced sometime in March. Romaine thanked Cartright for raising the concerns about the two long-running Brookhaven programs.
“It will apply town-wide,” the supervisor said about the soon-to-come program. “It will be to encourage homeowners in Brookhaven to do energy audits, and to provide the funding in either a low-interest or no interest loan to make those improvements and make Brookhaven the most energy-efficient town that we possibly can be.”