Eastpointe teams with Adopt-A-Watt to upgrade light poles

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published January 14, 2014

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EASTPOINTE — The Eastpointe City Council approved an agreement with Adopt-A-Watt Jan. 7 for the nonprofit to fund 15 light-pole replacements.

Under the agreement, Adopt-A-Watt, based out of Royal Oak, will find private sponsors willing to fund replacement light poles at the Eastpointe City Hall, library and district courthouse. Additional funds that the group brings in will go toward other energy efficiency programs.

“If you’re familiar with the Adopt-a-Highway signs, we are mimicking that program,” said Tom Wither, president of Adopt-A-Watt. “Only instead of giving sponsors recognition for picking up litter along the roads, we give them high-profile recognition for supporting energy-efficiency programs for cash-strapped public agencies.”

Once an agreement is signed between an entity and the nonprofit, Wither said they go to work finding people, businesses and nonprofits — from local bakeries to the auto giants — willing to help donate some money for a period of years. The sponsors get “high-profile signage” for their donation, and the city gets a portion of the money — split 60/40 with the nonprofit getting the larger amount — for energy-efficiency programs over time.

Initially, the money is used to do the actual work of light replacement, and he estimated that the city could save about 60 percent of its electric bill for the lights being replaced through the program.

City Manager Steve Duchane said the move is going to be a part of the city’s strategy toward greater energy efficiency, though it is unrelated to the special assessment the City Council approved in the fall to finance public lighting. That assessment also includes replacing the city’s existing mercury vapor light bulbs with LED bulbs.

“This is a kind of unique program,” Duchane said. “There’s no cost liability to the city.”

The city had some input on what poles could be replaced, but the ultimate decision was made by Adopt-A-Watt, Duchane said, with them selecting the 15 based on what they felt would work best for the program.

Duchane said that the two entities are also in talks for what future energy-efficiency programs the city could implement with the money raised in subsequent years, including an electric-vehicle charging station, as well as a city electric vehicle. The agreement, as presented, would run for a total of 10 years, though Duchane said it could also be canceled with 60 days’ notice.

Wither said he is hoping that work will be completed on the poles by summer, though the start date is contingent on when Adopt-A-Watt secures enough sponsors. Once completed, he said he wants to hold a “throwing of the switch ceremony” in the city to commemorate their completion.

Duchane said he had also received an endorsement from Dearborn, which is involved in the program.

Wither said that, at this point, Adopt-A-Watt has worked with entities from both sides of the country, including an airport in California and the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

“We’re really excited about the potential we have to help cash-strapped public agencies to become more energy-efficient, reduce their operating costs, and all this helps the environment and makes the world a cleaner place,” Wither said. “Our concern is that cities want to move into energy efficiency but don’t have the financial wherewithal to deal with that, and we’re pleased to protect the environment with everything we do, too.”

The council approved the program in a nearly unanimous vote; Mayor Suzanne Pixley was absent, but everyone in attendance approved.

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