Stettler town council approved transferring ownership of 30 streetlights in the municipality, but not before several councillors appeared concerned about the transaction. The resolution to transfer 30 streetlights to ATCO was made at the Aug. 2 regular meeting of council.
Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Greg Switenky presented councillors with a memo describing what amounted to an unbudgeted expense of $107,113 related to 30 streetlights which reached the end of their lifespan and required replacement.
“In 2022, approximately every seven years ATCO has completed an inspection/testing of the town’s 900 plus streetlights,” stated Switenky’s memo to councillors.
“As a result ATCO has determined that there are base and/or davit replacements required due to end-of-life at 30 (sites).
“In accordance with section 11 of the franchise agreement ATCO has provided the town with a cost to replace these davits and bases in the amount of $190,063.”
Readers should note the franchise agreement is a provincial document, not simply local.
“Also in accordance with the franchise agreement is the requirement to convert these streetlights from the town-owned rate, referred to in the franchise agreement as ‘non-invested’ streetlights by ATCO, to the ATCO ‘invested’ rate.
“This conversion allows ATCO to commence charging the town a higher monthly rate on these 30 streetlights given that ATCO must provide the town with a corresponding investment towards their replacement under these circumstances calculated at $82,950.
“In future years these converted streetlights will be repaired and/or replaced at ATCO’s full cost,” stated the memo.
Switenky further explained the Town of Stettler’s share for replacing these 30 streetlights added up to $107,113, which was not included in the 2023 budget. However, the CAO noted some streetlight replacement funds are usually budgeted every year and if unspent are saved up. Therefore, the town has about $97,000 set aside of streetlight replacement money anyway. He noted the roughly $9,000 extra could be found in the current budget.
During discussion Switenky stated the town has been in talks with ATCO about this project since the spring; the replacements need to be made and the work can’t be delayed.
Coun. Kurt Baker asked for clarification on who owns the streetlights once they’re replaced.
The CAO stated the 30 new streetlights will be ATCO’s property, which is a condition that’s included in the franchise agreement the company has with the Town of Stettler. It was noted such franchise agreements exist in virtually every community and are almost identical.
Switenky further explained the town is essentially turning over the streetlight assets to ATCO in accordance with the franchise agreement.
It was also noted the Town of Stettler spends about $220,000 on electricity for streetlights annually.
Mayor Sean Nolls clarified the transfer of assets is part of the franchise agreement Stettler has with ATCO, and the only other option the town has besides transferring the assets is to become a power provider itself.
When asked by Coun. Wayne Smith what happens if there is a malfunction of some kind with the new streetlights, it was pointed out that in future years the converted streetlights will be repaired and/or replaced at ATCO’s full cost.
Mayor Nolls reiterated that transferring the assets to ATCO is the best option available to the Town of Stettler.
Switenky pointed out ATCO has always been a cooperative partner of the town.
Councillors passed a resolution that the Town of Stettler spend $107,113 plus tax for the replacement of streetlights, davits, bases and other parts as per ATCO’s 2022 streetlight testing program and further resulting in 30 streetlight sites being converted from ‘non-invested’ to the ‘invested’ rate in accordance with the Electric Distribution System Franchise Agreement.
By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Aug 10, 2023