Dispute over street lights could cost Watertown $28K

Published: May. 1, 2023 at 4:55 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Watertown and National Grid are at odds over who will foot the bill to remove city streetlights. The streetscape project along Court Street may end up costing the city nearly $30,000 more.

Part of the city’s Downtown Streetscape Project is replacing cobra head street lights with ornamental lights like the ones on Public Square.

In 1991, the city and National Grid (then known as Niagara Mohawk) entered into a street light agreement. It states any future additions, upgrades, or expansions of the existing street light system is at the sole direction of the city and the city will provide all equipment necessary. It also states Niagara Mohawk will install it at its sole cost and expense.

But in October, National Grid sent a letter to the city saying it would cost $28,000 to remove the current lights.

It came as a shock to the city. Then-city attorney Bob Slye responded, disagreeing with the claim.

“We’ve never paid for removal of the old lights. We don’t believe we should have to,” said Watertown City Manager Ken Mix.

National Grid argues the city is requesting the premature removal of the existing street lights before the end of their useful life: something not covered in the agreement.

“That’s never been our understanding of the agreement. We have never paid for the removal of the old lights on any other project we’ve ever done,” said Mix.

In a statement to 7 News, National Grid spokesperson Jared Paventi, “In cases where National Grid-owned lights have not reached the end of their useful life, the municipality is charged for the net book value of each light, as well the cost to remove them.”

Mix says as work continues, crews are forced to work around the existing light poles as they pour new sidewalks and curbs. To prevent further delay, he says it’s in the city’s best interest to foot the bill.

“It’s springtime, and they’re starting work again, so we need them out of the way,” said Mix.

City council will consider a resolution Monday night to pay the $28,000 to have the street lights removed. If lawmakers vote it down, it will likely delay the entire Court Street project and cost the city even more.