■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
Last month, the San Jacinto City Council tabled its decision, to investigate further, on a Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG) Streetlight Program proposal. The proposal was brought back to City Council On Tuesday, March 21, after the committee met with WRCOG and established nine questions to be answered in the second presentation.
The presentations were brought before the City Council for the city manager and city attorney to negotiate and execute the purchase and sales agreement of Citywide LS-1 streetlights with Southern California Edison (SCE), including a light pole license agreement. The program is expected to enhance public safety, save utility costs and energy, and to “create smart city opportunities.”
“The whole goal here, as many of you know, is to increase our efficiencies,” explained San Jacinto Public Works Superintendent Andy Ramirez. “…with lower-cost LED, and possible revenue generation, giving us high control of ownership of these light poles, which would enable us to leverage our own savings here in the city.”
There are currently three rate structures from SCE for lighting up the streets. First there is LS-1, a flat rate per pole for SCE-owned poles. San Jacinto pays SCE the LS-1 rate to cover energy, facility, operations, and maintenance costs, rounding out to about $12 per pole per month. Secondly, LS-2 is a flat rate per pole for city-owned poles. San Jacinto pays SCE the rate to cover energy facility costs, while also being responsible for operations and maintenance costs. The total SCE and city cost is about $7 per pole per month for similar low-pressure sodium lighting, and about $5 per pole per month if the city converted to LED lighting. Lastly, LS-3 rate is a metered rate for city-owned poles. The LS-3 cost is based on electric usage plus a fixed facility charge per pole, while maintaining the same aforementioned responsibilities and costs. The total SCE and City cost is about $6 per pole per month for new LED lighting.
Approximately 2,352 LS-1 streetlights are installed in San Jacinto. Since 2001, SCE-owned streetlight rates have increased by 55 percent. Nearly 1,810 are sellable SCE-owned poles, while the remaining 542 lights are non-sellable due to their location on SCE distribution and transmission equipment. These public streetlights are paid for under the LS-1 rate structure, costing the city approximately $358,665 annually.
It’s no question that streetlights are a high utility cost for the city of San Jacinto. The estimated cost to purchase the 1,810 sellable street lights is approximately $1.62 million, while the final cost to convert the streetlights to LED is still being calculated.
Staff estimates the valuation for Edison’s transfer ownership to the city to be at $1.62 million plus $667,000 to retrofit the lights, with a grand finance total estimated at $2,215,583 for 15 years, net of financing costs and SCE incentives. The city is estimated to earn a total net savings of nearly $1.2 million.
The potential revenue generation average ranges from $50 to $1,500 per pole per year. Revenue is also expected to be generated from small micro cell attachments (single unit attachments that distribute various telecommunication features), advertising and Wi-Fi. Additional capabilities for the light poles include an EMS Emergency Response System (able to detect gunshots), and energy power management. A 20-year-limited warranty is being offered with the proposal as well.
The majority of the City Council seemed to be on board with the project, particularly Councilwoman Crystal Ruiz, who believes the program will help eradicate criminal activity.
“The difference between these two lights is the difference between me and my kids being safe, and not,” said Ruiz. “No matter what, I’m not going to put a price on the lives of my children, or the lives of the children in our community, our grandparents, our family, our friends; it’s just not worth it. I think WRCOG has done a fabulous job with this, and I think the city of San Jacinto even considering this is a huge deal.”
Sister-cities that have already approved the streetlight program include Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Temecula, Jurupa Community Service District and Wildomar. Hemet recently approved the project, however it wasn’t without concern. Hemet City Attorney Eric Vail was hesitant to take the risk, due to the lack of quantifiable data from agencies who have previously adopted the program.
The city of Calimesa, Rubidoux Community Services District and Riverside County have rejected the program, based on their number of poles, according to Tyler Masters, program manager at WRCOG.
“Riverside County has a lot of poles across a large geographical territory administered by its departments,” said Masters. According to him, the proposal never made it to the board, and it was never even considered. “Calimesa only has [about] 70 sellable poles, so you can kind of understand that. Rubidoux Community Services District fell within the city of Jurupa Valley, who’s still looking to assess feasibility, but they only have [about] 60 sellable Edison poles.”
“It’s not approval necessarily to the regional program, they’re not committed to WRCOG’s solution or any solution at this point,” added Masters. “They’re just moving forward, acquiring those streetlights and doing the due diligence in the next nine months/next year.”
Norco and Eastvale are two other agencies who are reportedly leaning toward not incorporating the project either, while the City of Perris is still finalizing its decision.
“I don’t like that there wasn’t transparency with who hasn’t adopted it,” stated Councilman Andrew Kotyuk. “For the County to not adopt it, I guess I have a lot of questions as to why, or what were the discussions, that I think I’d like to hear the answer to before making a decision.”
Mayor Scott Miller and Councilman Russ Utz agreed with Kotyuk’s concern, and decided to make their final decision upon further research at their March 28 special cannabis workshop meeting on Tuesday, just before the March 31 deadline. They revisited their options for a final time, after reviewing the reasons other agencies decided to reject the proposal, and ultimately decided to move forward, with the contingency that the city initially performs the administrative services in-house, with the door open to adopt WRCOG in the future.