A CHAIRMAN LIGHT in downtown Owosso dating from the 1980s. The lights were expected to have a 20-year lifespan, but now that it is 2022, it is evident many have failed or are failing.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
In a cautious move following a lengthy discussion, the Owosso City Council approved using $275,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help kick-start an Owosso Main Street/DDA project in replacing downtown Chairman Lights.
The Chairman Lights (decorative sidewalk lights) currently downtown date back to the 1980s. The lights were originally intended to last 20 years, but roughly 40 years later the city is seeing the lights suffer numerous maintenance issues and general wear-and-tear from age. The city is now absent about 10 of the Chairman Lights, marked by construction cones, since the lights are no longer stocked here and the replacement price is prohibitive.
Owosso Main Street/DDA Director Elizabeth Kuiper first brought the item to council attention early in June. In the background information Kuiper provided to council, she offered that the OMS/DDA Design Committee, using an independent contractor, identified last October that existing Chairman Light repair/replacement would cost $6,500 per replacement unit, exceeding the $5,000 cost per unit to replace the lights with a completely new style. Preliminary project estimates as offered through OMA/DDA, with the project likely taking up to 10 years, includes removing/replacing about 293 lights with new fixtures at about $5,000 each for an approximate total of $1.632 million. Some of the benefits include improved safety, light pollution reduction, energy savings, an increased warranty and lights that are “aesthetically pleasing” and offer updated technology. The estimated lifespan of the new Chairman Lights are 80 years, which includes a 5-year paint warranty and a 10-year LED bulb warranty. The company that OMS/DDA recommended for the project is Spring City Electrical Manufacturing of Pennsylvania, which is responsible for some of the lighting in Central Park, Frankenmuth and other locales.
The OMS/DDA approached council with the request for additional funding through ARPA to start the lighting project because OMS/DDA funds are already tied up with a sidewalk bond payment, Main Street Plaza project, Exchange Street Pocket Park, deteriorating flower beds and more. The OMS/DDA budget is separate from the city.
To start, the ARPA funds will purchase about 40 new Chairman Lights, along with related engineering expenses, to be installed on Washington Street. Because the project will take several years, the old Chairman Lights will be removed, stored and reutilized for parts until funding becomes available for more new lights. The new Chairman Lights will be purchased in batches in years to come.