By Courtney L. Saylor
Herald Staff Writer
Sharon officials hope some more grant money will let there be even more light in the city’s soon-to-be madeover downtown.
City Manager Scott Andrejchak said shifting to light-emitting diodes in the decorative lamps along State Street will save money on maintenance and electricity costs and give off a brighter light than the originally-planned high pressure sodium luminaries.
“I really believe that if we don’t upgrade the project to LED then it’s a mistake,” said Andrejchak, noting that the change likely would not have been possible a few years ago as decorative options were slim until recently.
The Streetscape project has been a longtime coming for the city, as the $800,000 grant was secured in 2004. Since then the price for new curbing, lights and sidewalks from the West Hill to Sharpsville Avenue has gone up to $1.1 million and city officials hope to score another $300,000 from the state to complete the project with LED lights.
Council members on Thursday approved application for a Keystone Community Program grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development.
“I think it’s important because the project is so important to the city, to the businesses,” Andrejchak said, emphasizing that the new type of lighting is not a gimmick. “We have a chance to make a good project better.
Andrejchak will pitch the idea of LEDs to the public at a meeting at 2 p.m. Jan. 28 in the community room at Riverview Manor, 15 W. Connelly Blvd., Sharon.
“I want everyone to feel comfortable about it. I want everyone to be part of the decision,” Andrejchak said.
He noted that many people don’t realize just how many people live downtown. There’s probably about 1,000 residents and many are disabled or don’t have cars.
One of the new potential lights sits in Andrejchak’s office and he said he plans to have one each with 60-, 80- and 100-watt output put up on Chestnut Street in the coming month so people can see what downtown would look like and how the LEDs perform outdoors.
The new lights aren’t cheap - one luminary costs about $1,200 - but they last years longer than the old ones and save energy. They also give off a more evenly distributed and powerful light, Andrejchak said.
He said he’s spoken with officials in Monaca, Beaver County, and in Fairhope, Ala., who converted to the LEDs and they’re happy with the switch.
Andrejchak said that the company they’d buy the new lights from, Holophane, sells kits to retrofit the old lamps with LEDs and they can reuse the old poles and increase the lighting in the downtown area. The plan is to also install the lighting in Bicentennial Park.
According to the Streetscape construction schedule, the lighting will be installed in July and other prep work will start in the spring with the whole project completed by Aug. 1.
Andrejchak said they’re looking at other funding options in case the grant money doesn’t materialize but they hope they won’t have to go to plan B or C.
“Our number one priority is to get State Street lit. That’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s dark. We know it. It’s going to change this year.”