Chevy Chase could use town funds for infrastructure
A Chevy Chase Town Councilman who proposed a tax rebate last month said he believes there is enough money for new infrastructure projects as well as rebates.
Since his preliminary rebate proposal that ranged from $500 to $2,000 per household, proposed at the Oct. 14 council meeting, Town Councilman Al Lang said he has received feedback from many residents about how the money could best be put to use. Some have suggested public projects the town could invest in, such as burying overhead electrical wiring.
"I think there are a few people that bring up the equity issue, but most people seem to like the idea of getting the money back," he said.
Lang said he met with the town's Public Services Commission on Saturday to discuss the possibility of purchasing street lights from Pepco and upgrading them to improve their efficacy and energy efficiency. Del. Al Carr (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington gave a presentation about the option of purchasing the lights to the Town Council on Oct. 14.
Town resident John Gross, who said he used to work for the Department of Energy, said he liked the idea of improving the town's street lights. In the long run, he said, it seemed as though the investment would be worthwhile. He also said he didn't think a rebate was necessary.
"You're not talking about a poor community. I think the people could be better served by having the money earmarked and used for common projects in infrastructure," Gross said.
During his Oct. 14 presentation, Carr said if the town chose to purchase the street lights, Pepco would ask for a $500 buyout per light. There are 278 Pepco-operated street lights in the town — purchasing all the lights would cost $139,000. The town currently pays Pepco $40,000 a year to operate the lights, Hoffman said.
A state law passed in 2007 that enables municipalities to purchase and maintain street lighting systems would not require that the town purchase all the lights. The town could purchase the type of lighting used and the street lamps' style.
Carr also said whether or not the town purchased the lights, Pepco planned to upgrade the lights from mostly "obsolete" mercury vapor lights to more energy-efficient high-pressure sodium lights over the next three years.
"They're going to increase their maintenance costs, because of the new type of light," Town manager Todd Hoffman said.
Lang said he thought the town might recoup the money spent on purchasing the lights within six to eight years.
More generally, Lang said he would be in favor of using some of the town's unbudgeted surplus, currently $2 million, for resurfacing roads or upgrading storm drains, while still saving some of the money for a rebate.
Resurfacing of East Avenue and Walsh Street is scheduled to begin today, while work on sidewalks along those streets was set to start on Tuesday.
"I think whatever projects we would chose to do, there would still be money left over," he said.