Chautauqua Property Owners Association President Bill Neches is always looking up when walking around the grounds.
Observing, learning and searching for better lighting on Chautauqua Institution streets is one of Neches’ passions, and also a passion of the CPOA. Throughout the summer season, CPOA provides the chance for others to do the same during Street Lighting Walk-abouts at 9:30 p.m. Sundays, beginning in front of the Colonnade.
This summer, however, is a bit different.
Currently, a preliminary contract is in the works between the Chautauqua Utility District and National Grid, the area’s electric company, to purchase with intent to replace all of the street lighting throughout the grounds, with the exception of a few Institution-owned fixtures on Bestor Plaza, the Brick Walk and the Main Gate.
In order for that contract to pass at the end of the summer season, it would need to be voted on by property owners.
The contract would be about $86,000, according to Neches, and would involve purchasing the existing street lights from National Grid. The district would need to float a bond for $700,000 for the purchase, the new lights and the cost to replace them.
Electricity would still be provided through National Grid, and the company would own any existing poles that are being used as transmission lines.
According to Neches, the district currently pays about $55,000 to National Grid per year — $15,000 for electricity and $40,000 to rent the lights from the company.
Over time, the annual savings would increase due to the use of more energy-efficient lighting, Neches said.
Neches said he is positive there would not be a property tax increase with that change.
The lighting CPOA has researched, tested and wants to install on the grounds can be found in the Ryan Kiblin Memorial Stormwater Park on Root Avenue, as well as near the phone booth next to the Colonnade. It’s a Neri 804 Heritage with a Philips Fortimo LLM linear LED array — an open-hooded light with two LED strips lit at 24 or 37 Watts, depending on height of the fixture. Neches said the cost of the light can range from about $1,700-2,400 per light depending on if it is mounted to an existing pole or a new post.
“It’s just a beautiful light,” Neches said. “It is the best LED light that we have found yet.”
During the walk-about, that light and several other models are highlighted as either Neches or John Dilley, CPOA Area 5 Representative and Outdoor Lighting Committee chair, guide the group.
Neches points to a few qualities of a light that can determine if it is suitable for Chautauqua or other similar pedestrian communities:
• Disability glare is when a too-bright light can make it difficult to see the street or anything beyond that, such as street signs and other pedestrians. It can worsen with age.
• Light trespass occurs when a light can shine in someone’s business or home. For example, a street light mounted on a pole can shine into the apartment of a second-story building throughout the night.
• Light pollution occurs when lights like globes, or spherical-shaped lights, on Bestor Plaza make it harder to see the night sky and stars.
• Cost and maintenance becomes an issue with higher watt bulbs that burn out quickly and need maintenance more often. For example, there are several lights that include incandescent, 100-plus-watt bulbs that need to be replaced about every three or four months. LED lights tend to need lower maintenance because they last longer.
After the weekly tour, people might be able to differentiate between the types of lights such as cobra heads and bollards, but Neches hopes it has an impact that will last until August, when the contract could be ready for a vote by property owners.
Every summer, the CPOA holds educational sessions in addition to the walkabouts. This year, the sessions will be held all season long.
“So that when the beginning of August comes, the community will be informed enough to decide whether or not they should authorize the floating of a bond for $700,000 and signing the contract with National Grid to take over all the street lighting,” Neches said.