There’s finally an end in sight to the city’s streetlight fight, as administration officials hit a self-imposed May 10 deadline to resolve the impasse over Chattanooga’s $24 million streetlight replacement program.
Chief operating officer Jeff Cannon today will present his recommendations to Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, just three days before the City Council is scheduled to take up debate on the topic.
Officials may consider a compromise between doing the project all at once and not doing it at all, said Chip Henderson, chairman of the City Council. Henderson is considering replacing the current lights as they go out — roughly 1,000 lights per year — rather than replacing them en masse at a multimillion-dollar cost.
Private debates over the merits of the program, which just last year was heralded by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam as a boon for jobs and entrepreneurship, spilled into the public domain in April. Since then, the man behind the radio-controlled LED lights has threatened to move to Memphis over nearly six months of government delays in buying the lights.
Those delays have cost taxpayers $716,000 in lost energy savings and have cost the former employees of Global Green Lighting nearly $900,000 in lost wages, said company founder Don Lepard.
“[Chattanooga Mayor Andy] Berke has kicked the can down the road now three times,” Lepard said.
City officials, who have struggled to resolve conflicting data from Global Green Lighting and EPB, say the mayor has had little direct involvement in the process.
Lepard is hoping that this time, the administration will sign off on the remainder of its contract. But he’s also hedging his bets.
The one-time UTC football star has already signed off on an agreement with Memphis officials to open a factory there if that city will replace its 82,000 high-pressure sodium lights with his more energy-efficient LED models.
Chattanooga in 2013 replaced 4,400 of its 27,000 high-pressure sodium streetlights with Global Green’s lights, but delayed further purchases after energy bill discrepancies and inflated maintenance figures supplied by EPB impaired the city’s analysis and forced City Auditor Stan Sewell to step in to sort out the numbers.
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