Happy New Year. My Brighton supervisor’s column will appear monthly in the Brighton Pittsford Post this year, and I look forward to continuing to provide helpful information to Brighton residents in these columns. I am committed that town government be accessible to residents, and accordingly, if you have any questions about town government or any of my columns, please feel free to email me at William.moehle@townofbrighton.org or call my office at 585-784-5252.
Winter nights are long and dark, and they are particularly dark when street lights that you rely on are out of service. Rochester Gas and Electric owns the street lighting systems in Brighton’s residential neighborhoods, and residents pay for those street lights through special district charges on their tax bills. Because many of our neighborhoods are quite old, those street lighting systems have also not been upgraded in many years. In some of those neighborhoods, we have seen repeated service outages. Most recently, streets in the Bel Air Neighborhood, including Glen Ellyn Way, St. Regis Drive and others, were again out of service for several weeks during the holiday season. These are neighborhoods where many people walk to shop, to school and to religious services. Visibility is especially important when winter conditions can make sidewalks more hazardous. Most of the lights are now back on in Bel Air, after my demands that RG&E work until the outage had been repaired, but many systemic problems remain.
Last year, Commissioner of Public Works Tim Keef and I testified before the New York State Public Service Commission hearing in Rochester against a rate increase for RG&E, citing RG&E’s failure to adequately maintain and make capital improvements to the residential street lighting system; their failure to take the necessary steps to facilitate the conversion to cost and energy saving LED lighting fixtures in the neighborhood systems; and their inability to justify pricing for a possible purchase of the neighborhood system by the town. Despite our objections, RG&E was granted an increase, but the shortcomings of RG&E when it comes to street lighting in Brighton became part of the official record of the hearing.
The town of Brighton will continue to pressure RG&E to upgrade its street lighting performance to acceptable standards. RG&E has told the town that plans for a capital upgrade in the Struckmar neighborhood have been submitted to management. That project and others in neighborhoods like Bel Air have taken far too long to come to fruition and must be RG&E’s top priority. Conversion to LED lighting, consistent with Brighton’s role as a sustainable community, must also proceed. To date, RG&E has failed to even submit a public service commission tariff application to allow it to offer LED lighting using our landmark decorative lighting fixtures in residential neighborhoods. This continued delay by RG&E, when other communities across the nation are moving ahead with LED lighting, is unacceptable. If purchasing the system is the only way to ensure better service, the town will not hesitate to do so, but only at a price that can be justified, and only after RG&E has accounted for what seems to be a failure to use moneys earmarked for capital expenditures for that purpose. I look forward to progress with RG&E in 2017, but we know that it will only come with the strongest possible oversight by the town.