Merriam discusses moving to LED bulbs in city streetlights

Of the 78 LED lights, 34 will be black decorative (pictured) and installed along Johnson Drive east of Antioch to city limits.

The Merriam city council on Monday discussed purchasing LED bulbs for streetlights in need of replacement, and eventually transitioning entirely to LED bulbs.

A move to LED bulbs is trending among Shawnee Mission cities: Prairie Village its streetlights from Kansas City Power & Light in 2016 and set about installing LED heads. And in November 2019, Overland Park and Lenexa entered a partnership to switch to LED bulbs on some shared streetlights. Recently, Shawnee approved the acquisition of streetlights from Evergy (formerly KCP&L) and a conversion to LED bulbs.

Merriam purchased streetlights from KCP&L in 1996, and all light fixtures installed to date have been high-pressure sodium streetlights, according to city documents. There are 228 lights left to install to complete the Merriam Streetlight Program, and 78 of those are set for installation in 2020. The program could be completed with high-pressure sodium bulbs for $950,000, or with LED bulbs for closer to $1 million, Public Works Director Jim MacDonald said.

Additionally, Merriam installed various LED fixtures along Knox Avenue at 67th Street in 2012, and has been monitoring them ever since. Transitioning to LED bulbs could cut the city’s kilowatt usage in half, and would align with city council’s current goal to encourage energy-reducing and recycling efforts, MacDonald said.

“There is an additional expense, however, it meets with our goals and it would be kind of ridiculous to buy high-pressure sodium [bulbs] that we’re going to probably end up replacing down the road anyway,” Mayor Ken Sissom said. “That’s the way I look at it.”

City staff recommends a total transition to LED bulbs from here on out, and MacDonald said he can complete the transition for the 78 bulbs within the 2020 budget. MacDonald confirmed for Councilmember David Neal that the additional $50,000 will be a small increase over several years, and the $1 million will be used to convert the remaining 228 bulbs — not just the 78 to be installed this year.

MacDonald said when a high-pressure sodium bulb goes out, Public Works staff plans to replace it with an LED bulb. Sissom said plans for a complete transition to LED bulbs will be next on the city’s radar. The city council did not take any action regarding LED bulbs during the meeting.