The Española City Council at its Dec. 8 meeting accepted a $500,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation to install new LED streetlights citywide.
City Manager Xavier Martinez spoke about the funding.
“The mayor actually spearheaded this and reached out to the governor directly and got this funding through the governor’s allotted funding that she can afford,” he said.
Mayor Javier Sanchez said improving the city’s appearance and safety at night has been a priority as mayor, which lead him to make this special request of the governor’s office before the last legislative session.
“It was something that I had gone to her for and asked for because it’s specific to us,” Sanchez said. “I don’t know if any other communities are like us or not, but, it’s certainly one of the things that I recognized when I was running for office. So, you know, we saw that we had the problem of darkness and lack of lights, and this is one of the ways that we can approach that task in order to tackle it.”
Several streetlights along the city’s main thoroughfares are not functional due to copper wire theft. The first stage of the project involves repairing already-existing street lights and preparing to install the LED fixtures.
“We have a contractor that’s looking to start the first phase of that project next month in February,” Martinez said. “Bixby Electric is the contractor’s name.”
Bixby Electric is an Albuquerque-based contractor chosen for the work. That first stage is expected to be completed by the end of February or early March.
Martinez said Tuesday Bixby Electric has a price agreement with the state, allowing the city to contract with the company without going out to bid. However, if the city is not satisfied with the first phase of the contract, it can go out for bid on the remainder of the project.
“Right now we’re focusing on repairing all downed lights along the state roads,” Martinez said. “So primarily down Riverside from Upper San Pedro at the entrance of the southern part of the city by Sonic, all the way down to Riverside. That’s the plan right now.”
The city does not currently have a comprehensive budget or schedule for the project but will get as far as it can on the state funds. The grant does not specifically have to be used on state roads, but the first stages of the work are focused along those roads because they are most heavily trafficked.
“One of the things that I suggested was to consider running the wires on the top of the posts, the way that they were done in the past, in order to help prevent the theft of the copper,” Sanchez said. “But, Bixby did a quick study and said that that wouldn’t be possible for the streetlights through the city, because there’s a lot of, either other hanging wires, crosswires, or other impediments that would prevent that from happening. So even though I don’t think it’s as sightly to have the wires on the top. It was my way of just saying, well, let’s look at every option.”
The wires will instead be run underground but will be made of aluminum, which is not as valuable as copper.
“We’re recognizing that a lot of the reasons that we have dark streets is because the copper keeps getting stolen from the lights,” Sanchez said. “We’re also working with Jemez (Mountains Electric Cooperative) to do a comprehensive audit of what lights we have and which ones we’re responsible for, which ones Jemez is responsible for, and how we can get them up and running on a much more regular basis.”
He said a well-lit city provides for better aesthetics.
“One of the things that I saw, and one of the things that I wanted to change was the general appearance of the city,” Sanchez said. “It helps to give the sense of public safety and cleanliness. And those are important aspects to keeping the city strong.”